By Victor Omondi – Stanley Crouch, a renowned jazz critic has just died at the age of 74. Based on an announcement given by his wife, Gloria Nixon-Crouch, the 74-year-old died at the Calvary Hospital in New York on Wednesday. Crouch has been in and out of the hospital due to serious health issues.
Crouch was born on December 14, 1945, in Los Angeles. Before relocating to New York, Crouch read extensively, took up jazz drums, watched the riots up close, published Black Nationalist poetry, led guerilla-theater troupes, taught literature at Pomona College, and watched the Watts riots up close.
He’s well known for his first collection, Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989. It’s one of the most popular classics of American letters, having disquisitions on a wide range of topics such as Jesse Jackson, filmmaker Ousmane Sembene and painter Bob Thompson, finishing with a panoramic diary of the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy.
The book got a wide play, became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, making Crouch a renowned figure. Later on, Crouch wrote several books including a novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome?, that got a close read from John Updike in the New Yorker, and Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, a well-received biography.
Some of the honors Crouch received included a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship. After he publicly renounced Black Nationalism in 1979, Crouch tried to associate with Ralph Ellison, and more so Albert Murray, the pioneers behind the idea of embracing Blackness and embracing American-ness became one and the same.
After contracting Covid-19 in the spring, Crouch lived for a few more months fighting for his life, before breathing his last. Fans and friends know him as one who believed in humanity and will forever remember him as a jazz critic.
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