May 2, 1941 – August 13, 2016
Connie Crothers left this world on August 13, 2016. Her passing is an immeasurable loss for her friends and family, for her colleagues and students, and for the international community of jazz musicians. Connie lived her life just as she played the piano — intensely, intuitively, fearlessly, and with love. She was never less than completely present. Connie’s impact in the world of improvised music cannot be overstated. Cadence Magazine’s Centennial Issue named her as one of the most important and influential musicians of the late 20th Century.
On November 13, 2016, a concert — Love & Music — was held in Connie’s honor. More than 70 musicians, poets, dancers, and speakers came together at Roulette, in Brooklyn, to pay tribute to an artist who was an inspiration to all who knew and loved her, and whose generosity and capacity for joy informed every aspect of her life.
Artist Jeff Schlanger “recorded” the concert with on-the-spot paintings, which he assembled into a book dedicated to Connie. A digital reproduction of the book can be seen HERE. Photographer Scott Friedlander’s images of the concert can be seen HERE.
Note from New Artists: This bio is a general overview of Connie’s recording and performing career. Any omissions or errors are unintentional and will be corrected over time.
CONNIE CROTHERS, pianist, has lived her musical life as performer, recording artist and teacher releasing the feeling — her source — into the music which realizes her range of expression, her virtuosity based in her love of the instrument, and her desire to discover everything she can hear and imagine through spontaneous improvisation.
In 2017, Important Records released Connie’s duo with accordionist and electronic musician Pauline Oliveros, Live at The Stone, a recording of their 2014 performance at The Stone in New York City.
Connie performed twice at the 2016 Vision Festival in New York — first in a trio with Michael Bisio and Warren Smith, and again with trombonist Steve Swell’s Quintet (Steve, Connie, Rob Brown, Larry Roland and Chad Taylor). She also gave a duo performance with Henry Grimes at an Arts for Art fundraiser for the Under_Line Salon. In June of 2016, she performed with Nicole Peyrafitte in Luchon, France.
In 2015, Connie gave a solo performance at the Staats Theater in Kassel, Germany. She performed at the Vision Festival with dancers Elaine Gutierrez and Elaine Cray, Morales Dance. Connie’s additional performances in 2015 featured a number of musicians in a variety of contexts. She performed duos—with Warren Smith, percussionist, at Zurcher Gallery, NYC and also at Clemente Solo Velez, NYC, presented by Arts for Art Evolving Series; Joe McPhee, tenor saxophone, at Zurcher Gallery NYC; bassist Ken Filiano at Soup and Sound, Brooklyn; electronic composer and improviser Tom Hamilton at The Old Stone House, Brooklyn, presented by Dan Joseph’s Musical Ecologies; Paula Hackett, poet, Scholes Street Studio, Brooklyn; Ryan Messina, trumpet, Scholes Street Studio. Her trio performances included TranceFormation—Andrea Wolper, voice, Ken Filiano, bass at the Will Connell Memorial Concert, St. Peter’s Church, NYC; Kevin Norton, vibes and percussion, and Guillermo Gregorio at iBeam, Brooklyn; Michael Bisio, bass and Michael T.A. Thompson, drums, at Clemente Solo Velez, Arts for Art, NYC; Adam Lane, Michael Wimberley, Scholes Street Studio; Pete Swanson, bass and Michael Wimberley, drums at Scholes Street Studio. Quartet appearances include Adam Caine Quartet, with Adam Caine on guitar, Ken Filiano on bass, Federico Ughi on drums, Firehouse Performance Space, Brooklyn; Jeff Pearring Quartet at Lang Hall, Hunter College, NYC, with Jeff Pearring on alto saxophone, Ken Filiano on bass and Carlo Costa on drums, also at Scholes Street Studio.
Connie was selected for a week residency at The Stone, from August 19 to 24, 2014. She performed twelve sets, each set with a different lineup of musicians. The musicians included Andrea Wolper, voice; Ken Filiano, bass; Nick Lyons, alto saxophone; Lorenzo Sanguedolce, tenor saxophone; Pete Swanson, bass; Todd Capp, drums; Jemeel Moondoc, alto saxophone; Henry Grimes, bass and violin; Adam Caine, guitar; Federico Ughi, drums; Alexis Parsons, voice; Jessica Jones, tenor saxophone; Louie Belogenis, tenor saxophone, Michael Wimberley, drums; Kevin Norton, vibes, percussion; Ed Schuller, bass; Roger Mancuso, drums; Eva Lindal, violin; Tomas Ulrich, cello; Michael Bisio, bass; Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone; Mark Weber, poet; Pauline Oliveros, accordion, electronics; Cheryl Richards, voice. The set with Pauline Oliveros was chosen for the critics pick section in Time Out Magazine.
Concert in Paris, a solo CD of selections from a solo concert performed in Paris, was released in 2014 on the New Artists label. In February of 2014, Connie played in the tribute to drummer with William Hooker, bassist Henry Grimes, horn player Daniel Carter, and tenor player Ras Moshe, which took place at Roulette in Brooklyn.
In 2014, her quartet, with Richard Tabnik on alto saxophone, Ken Filiano on bass, Roger Mancuso on drums, released Deep Friendship (New Artists), their concert at William Paterson University. The quartet celebrated the CD release in a performance at Roulette in Brooklyn. She appeared in the Vision Festival with Times Three, a trio with Henry Grimes on bass and violin and Melvin Gibbs on electric bass. In this festival, she also performed with the dancer Patricia Parker, violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Shayna Dulberger. Additional performances in 2014 included a number of duo concerts — with Richard Tabnik, singer Cheryl Richards, bassist Ken Filiano, guitar player Dan Rose, trumpet player Ryan Messina, bassoonist Claire DeBrunner, tenor saxophone player Will Jhun, flutist Jan Leder, alto saxophone player Aaron Johnson. She appeared at The Firehouse Performance Space, Brooklyn, in a quintet led by bassist Adam Lane which featured two pianos, the other pianist being Virg Dzurinko; in the band were Daniel Carter, multiple horns; Vijay Anderson, drums. She toured California with Jessica Jones, tenor saxophone, celebrating their 2013 CD release, Live at the Freight. This CD was chosen for their best of the year lists by Ken Weiss and Duck Baker.
In 2013, she performed at the Vision Festival with poet Steve Dalachinsky. With the Northwoods Improvisers — Skeeter Shelton on tenor saxophone, Mike Gilmore on vibes, bassist Mike Johnston, drummer Nick Ashton — she appeared at the Edge Festival. She performed solo at Roulette. A duo CD with alto saxophone player Jemeel Moondoc, Two, was released on the Relative Pitch Label.
In 2012, the French label RogueArt released a four-CD box set, a duo with pianist David Arner, Spontaneous Suites for Two Pianos. Ken Weiss chose it for his best of 2012 list. Grego Applegate Edwards writes: “It is one of the finest improvisational solo-pianistic moments we have experienced in recorded form to date. It will repay your attention with an enthralling sublimity.” Poet Paula Hackett and Connie collaborated on a poetry/improvised piano duo CD, Sharing the Thrill.
Released in 2011 Live at the Stone, NYC (New Artists) features her quartet, with poet Mark Weber was released. Another release that year was Band of Fire (New Artists), the quartet plus Roy Campbell on trumpet. A duo CD with clarinet player Bill Payne, The Stone Set (New Artists), is a 2-CD release, one CD from a performance at The Stone and the other CD a re-release of their first recording, Conversations (New Artists). This was chosen for Ken Waxman’s best of the year list. Bill Shoemaker and Art Lange had selected Conversations for their best of the year lists when it was released originally. Kingston Tone Roads, features a duet with Kevin Norton on vibes and percussion, with Tabnik on one track, New Vanguard label.
TranceFormation, a trio, with singer Andrea Wolper and bassist Ken Filiano, released selections from two live performances on TranceFormation in Concert (New Artists). She accompanies singer Alexis Parsons on Hippin’ (New Artists). In June, 2011, her quartet performed at the Vision Festival in New York City. They received a standing ovation. Writing about the set in Jazz Inside, Ken Weiss described this set as “the highlight of the Festival.”
In 2010, Connie’s quartet with Tabnik, Filiano and drummer Klaus Kugel toured Siberia and Germany. The Mutable label released Session at 475 Kent, a duo with bassist Michael Bisio, in 2010. This CD placed on three best 10 records of the year lists, Grego Edwards and Jason Bivins in Cadence Magazine, and Tim DuRoche in Jazz Journalists Association. In October, 2009, she performed duo with Bisio at Location One, presented by Roulette, in New York City.
In January 2007, her quartet released a CD, Music is a Place (New Artists), with Ratzo Harris on bass. It was chosen by Stuart Broomer and Bill Shoemaker for their lists of the top ten recordings of the year; it received an honorable mention for best CDs of the year in All About Jazz/New York. In December 2009, Howard Mandel chose this record for his best of the year list, in a listening category. The band’s two CDs, Ontology (New Artists) and Live, Outpost Performance Space (New Artists) with poet Mark Weber, received critical acclaim. She has performed with her quartet at the The Stone, JVC Jazz Festival and at Birdland, Small’s, Clemente Solo Velez, Rhythm in the Kitchen, Cooler in the Shade in New York City, Cultural Center in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Fasching in Stockholm and Town Hall in Tallin, Estonia (with guitarist Andy Fite and bassist Ulf Ackerhielm), Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, NM.
Connie curated The Stone in September, 2009. This curation was selected by Time Out magazine for a preview, getting the #2 spot for best live performance in New York City.
She has performed extensively as a soloist. In 2011, she performed solo in San Francisco, CA, Bay City, MI, Chicago, IL and in Paris. She appeared solo in the 2008 Vision Festival, the only solo set in the Festival that year. Ken Weiss wrote in Cadence that her set was one of the best three sets of the Festival. She was presented as a soloist by the Interpretations Series at Merkin Hall in 2006, New York City, also performing a duet with Roscoe Mitchell in that concert; she performed at the Northhamton Center for the Arts in the “World of Piano” series, and at the Deep Listening Space in Kingston, NY. She has performed solo in festivals such as Berlin Jazztage, Jazz at Middleheim in Belgium, DuMaurier International Festival in Toronto, New Music America Festival, “Piano Nights” Festival in St. Augustine. Lennie Tristano produced her in three solo concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall; a fourth was produced by the Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation, produced by Jazz Records on a double-LP set, Solo. John Sutherland chose her solo recording, Music from Everyday Life (New Artists), for his list of the best ten recordings of the year in Coda.
She appeared in performance with percussionist Kevin Norton at Location One and Cornelia Street, NYC; Middletown, CT, and in Kingston, NY. She performed with Jemeel Moondoc, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor at The Stone, also a trio performance with Grimes and Moondoc and a duet with Grimes at The Stone in New York City; She performed with Jemeel Moondoc at Hallwalls in Buffalo, Tonic in NYC and at the Vision Festival in a quintet which included trumpet player Nathan Breedlove, bassist Adam Lane and drummer John McCutcheon. She performed duo with electroacoustic improviser Ben Manley at Location One. In 2011, she performed with poet Paula Hackett in San Francisco.
In 1982, Connie and Max Roach released Swish (New Artists), as part of Roach’s historic duets recording project. She performed duo with Roach in Tokyo, Bologna, New Orleans and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. They were honored by Harvard University as Visiting Jazz Artists; during the ceremony they performed with the Harvard University Band. For this concert, Anthony Braxton wrote a composition for them.
She co-led an engagement at the Village Vanguard with Warne Marsh, in a quartet featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Peter Scattaretico. She performed with Marsh, with Roger Mancuso and bassist Joe Solomon in Carnegie Recital Hall.
Love Energy (New Artists), a quartet CD co-led by Lenny Popkin and featuring Carol Tristano and Cameron Brown, was chosen #1 record of the year by Jack Cooke in Wire. Another release from this quartet, In Motion (New Artists), was selected for the best 50 records of the year by the French magazine, Jazz Magazine. This quartet appeared at the Blue Note, Sweet Basil and Birdland in New York City, De Singel, De Werf and L’Archeduc in Belgium, Bimhuis in Amsterdam, the Toronto International Jazz Festival, Ottowa Jazz Festival, the Lennie Tristano Club in Aversa, Italy, Spoleto Festival in Charleston, NC.
When her first record, Perception (originally on Steeplechase), was reissued in 1983 on Inner City, it was selected as one of the ten best records of the year by Mark Weber in Coda. When it was reissued in 1986, Patrick Williams chose it for record of the month in Jazz Magazine. When it was reissued again in 1995, Claude Colpaert selected it as record of the month in Jazz Hot. Her duet recording with Richard Tabnik, Duo Dimension (New Artists), was selected by Lois Moody for her year’s ten best list in Ottowa Citizen.
Feature articles about Connie have appeared in Jazz Inside, Knack (Belgium), Jazz Podium (Germany), Cadence, The Village Voice, All About Jazz New York.
She was a guest on Marian McPartland’s radio show “Piano Jazz.” She was honored by the Jazz Museum in Harlem by being featured in their series “Harlem Speaks.”
In the centennial issue of Cadence Magazine, she was selected for the list of the most important and influential musicians in the last twenty-five years of the 20th century.
Connie studied with and taught in association with Lennie Tristano. About her first record, Perception, Lennie wrote: “Connie Crothers is the most original musician it has ever been my privilege to work with.”
For more about Connie, here are a few links. There are many, many more, including YouTube videos. See also Connie’s website, conniecrothers.net.
Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz; Chris Becker, Beckeresque Press, 2015; book available from Amazon
Connie Crothers, bassist William Parker and bassist Henry Grimes in conversation, Arts for Art Under_Line Salon fundraiser; April, 2016
RELEASES ON NEW ARTISTS
Concert in Paris NA1059
Deep Friendship NA1058
Live at the Freight NA1056
Sharing the Thrill NA1055
TranceFormation in Concert NA1054
Band of Fire NA1050
The Stone Set NA1048
Live at the Stone NYC NA1046
Music is a Place NA1043
Primal Elegance NA1038
Music from Everyday Life NA1025
Deep Into the Center NA1020
Jazz Spring NA1017
In Motion NA1013
New York Night NA1008
Love Energy NA1005
Duo Dimension NA1003
Concert at Cooper Union NA1002
RELEASES ON OTHER LABELS
Perception — solo piano; trio with Joe Solomon & Roger Mancuso
Solo — solo piano & voice
DEEP LISTENING (New Vanguard Series)
Kingston Tone Roads — Connie Crothers/Kevin Norton Duo; with Richard Tabnik
Session at 475 Kent — Connie Crothers & Michael Bisio
Spontaneous Suites for Two Pianos — Connie Crothers & David Arner
RELATIVE PITCH RECORDS
Two — Connie Crothers & Jemeel Moondoc
Kende Dreams: Hommage a Bartók — Steve Swell, Rob Brown, Connie Crothers, William Parker, Chad Taylor
Live at The Stone — Connie Crothers & Pauline Oliveros