For the past two decades, author and critic Stanley Crouch has delighted and enraged readers with his two-fisted observations of American culture. In books like "The All-American Skin Game" and "Notes of a Hanging Judge," as well as in commentaries and columns in the New York Daily News and the New Republic, he has attacked the excesses of black nationalism, feminism and the gay rights movement and bemoaned the sentimentality that guides so much of American social policy. In the process, the 52-year-old Crouch has carved out a niche as one of the country's most controversial, outspoken and independent-minded critics.
Crouch is an unabashed admirer of old-style civil rights, jazz, Jewish intellectuals, authors Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray and black success stories like Johnnie Cochran and the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. And he's not afraid to do battle with the current trend of separatism that defines black politics today.
Born on December 14, 1945, in Los Angeles, CA, Crouch is a self-taught drummer who started playing in 1966 to accompany poet Jayne Cortez. In 1967, he formed a quartet with alto Arthur Blythe and trumpeter Bobby Bradford. In the early '70s he taught drama at Claremont College and led the Black Music Infinity Orchestra that included James Newton (flute), David Murray (tenor saxophone) and Mark Dresser (bass). In 1975, he moved to New York, contributing to Alan Douglas's celebrated WILDFLOWERS anthologies. Gradually his career as a critic eclipsed his work on the drums.
Jazz, however, remains Stanley Crouch's passion and his metaphor of an ideal America, where solo expression lifts the whole band, where innovation acknowledges tradition, where democracy drives excellence. The melody under his riffs and rants over the years about black nationalism is the theme that black and white America - no matter the tensions - are unimaginable without each other; Negroes made the nation, and they made an identity that is more American deeper down than it is any one color.
Crouch has made frequent appearances on Charlie Rose on PBS and on National Public Radio. He has published essays in the Los Angeles Times and in Time Magazine. He acts as artistic consultant to jazz at Lincoln Center.
NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum program from October 18, 2001.
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