Connie Crothers was born in Palo Alto, California on May 2, 1941. When she was nine years old, she began piano lessons. She also began composing. She performed frequently in concerts and recitals, sometimes performing her compositions. At the University of California in Berkeley she majored in music with an emphasis on composition. She moved to New York City in 1962 and began studying with Lennie Tristano. In 1972 he began presenting her in performances for invited audiences in his home. In 1973 he presented her in solo concert at Carnegie Recital Hall. He produced two other solo concerts in Carnegie Recital Hall, in 1977 and 1978. The Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation produced a solo concert in Carnegie Recital Hall in 1979. In 1974, she recorded “Perception“ for the SteepleChase label, SCS-1002, solo and and trio with drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Joe Solomon. Gary Giddens, in a feature review in the Village Voice, wrote,“Her mastery of the piano is not to be gainsaid. It is her own enigmatic personality that gives this disc its special, haunting character. It clearly heralds the arrival of a pianist of stature.”
listen to the Connie Crothers Quintet | Warne Marsh by Mark Weber
listen to the Connie Crothers Quintet | Laura
When this record was reissued in 1983 on the Inner City label, IC 2022, Mark Weber selected it as one of the ten best records of the year in Coda. When, in 1986, SteepleChase reissued it, Patrick Williams chose it as record of the month in Jazz Magazine, saying, “Because she has unerring fingers, true swing, a true blues sensibilty, because she knows where she is going, because of her originality, the music of Connie Crothers, which transcends the distinction between personal compositions and standards, causes the listener to experience a captivating joy.”
And in 1995 SteepleChase reissued this record on CD, SCCD31022, Claude Colpaert selected it as record of the month in Jazz Hot. In 1975, she performed in concert with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, with Roger Mancuso and Joe Solomon, in Carnegie Recital Hall.
Connie co-produced along with tenor saxophonist Lenny Popkin, the Lennie Tristano memorial concert, held in Town Hall in New York City in 1979. She performed duo at this concert with flute player Nomi Rosen.This performance was issued on the five-record album box set of this concert released on the Jazz Records label, JR-3. In 1980, she co-led an engagement with Warne Marsh at the Village Vanguard, with Eddie Gomez on bass and Peter Scattaretico on drums.
Her second record, “Solo,” released on Jazz Records, JR-4, in 1980, is a two-record album of an entire concert. In Jazz Journal, Derrick Stewart-Baxter wrote, “Her chord structure and modern outlook I find very exciting and all her piano solos are excellent. The two piano solos which open the record are fascinating. There are delightful renderings of classic songs — the marvelous ‘How Deep is the Ocean,’ with its single note inventions, quite fascinating, and the great version of ‘Sentimental Over You.’ This LP should prove very rewarding. I am hooked!” In a review in Cadence, Per Husby wrote, “Ms. Crothers comes out as a very original player. The music has a very uncompromising air to it, her piano technique is very clean and never is there any sign of superfluousness. It is good to hear a player who hits every note no-nonsense straight.”
In 1980, Connie performed solo at the Berlin Jazztage. With composer and percussionist Max Roach she recorded duo. In 1982 they produced this session, “Swish,” on New Artists, a record company which they co-founded. It received a four-star review in Down Beat. Bill Shoemaker wrote, “Connie Crothers, a pianist who has expanded Tristano’s labyrinthine complexes, is a refreshing surprise.” When this record was reissued on CD in 1994, it received another four-star review in Down Beat. Jon Andrews wrote, “The relative freedom of the duet setting fits the tension and energy of Crothers’ uninhibited playing. Roach is always fascinating.” In 1983, she co-led an engagement with Max Roach, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a four-way collaboration entitled, “Intuitive Momentum,” featuring the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
listen to Connie Crothers and Richard Tabnik | Smile, My Baby
Their recordings include “New York Night,” NA1008, 1990, recorded at the Blue Note, released in Japan on the Americana label, 28C 8008(A); “In Motion,” NA1013, 1991, recorded in Belgium by Belgian Radio and Television (BRT), voted one of the top 50 records of the year by Jazz Magazine; “Jazz Spring,” NA1017, 1993, selected as record of the month by Xavier Prevost of Jazz Magazine; “Session,” NA1027, 1998, which features Rich Califano on bass. Writing about this group in Jazz Nu, Frank van Herk said, “This is linear improvisation at its best.” Connie recorded duo with drummer Roger Mancuso, “Deep into the Center,” New Artists NA1020, 1994. In 1996, Marion McPartland featured Connie on her radio series “Piano Jazz,” on National Public Radio. In 1997, she released a solo CD, “Music from Everyday Life,“ New Artists NA1025. John Sutherland, in Coda, selected it for his best of the year list. “Just for the Joy of It,” a duo CD featuring Connie with singer Bob Casanova was released in 1998, New Artists NA1026. It was described by Frank Rubolino in Cadence as “pure musical experience…a moving album which achieves a whole new level of originality.”
listen to Connie Crothers – Lenny Popkin Quartet | Love Energy
Connie performed solo at The Jazz School in Berkeley, California in 1998. In the January 2000 issue of Cadence, she was chosen for inclusion in the selection of the most important and influential musicians in the last twenty-five years. Connie formed a quartet with Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso and bassist Sean Smith. They released “Ontology,” New Artists 1035 in 2000. In Cadence, David Lewis wrote, “The Connie Crothers Quartet or CCQt, is in brilliant, driving form as they generate explosive contemporary bop… “Ontology” sustains the most exhilarating and inventive hard bop I have heard in many years and I imagine that to catch this band on a good night must be awesome. You must check it out!”
listen to the Connie Crothers – Lenny Popkin Quartet | Prez Says
With this quartet, Connie appeared at Birdland in April 2000 when the club featured the New Artists label; during this performance, Linda Satin sang with the quartet. Birdland featured the New Artists label in seven consecutive performances. Connie appeared with this quartet with Ratzo Harris on bass, featuring on one occasion Linda Satin and, on another, singer Harry Schulz. She also perform trio with Harris and Mancuso.This quartet performed at Roulette in New York City in November 2000.The quartet was joined by guitarist Andy Fite in a tour of Sweden and Estonia. They performed in Club Fasching in Stockholm. They appeared in Tallin and Tartu. Connie gave a teaching workshop at the Stockholm Conservatory of Music. In 2001 and 2003 her quartet appeared in Albuquerque, New Mexico at The Outpost Performance Space. Mark Weber, poet, performed poetry he had written for the concert with the band. Selections from the 2003 concert was released on the CD, “Live, Outpost Performance Space,” in 2005 on the New Artists label.
In December 2000, she performed in a Max Roach concert in Tokyo, Japan, where she performed solo, duo with Mr. Roach and with the Max Roach Quartet. In February 2000 she performed a duet with Max Roach in Bologna, Italy at El Teatro di Celebrazione. In April 2001, at Harvard University, she was awarded Honorary Jazz Master. She appeared in concert with Max Roach and tap dancer Diane Walker, with the Harvard University Jazz Band, under the direction of Tom Everett. She gave a teaching presentation there. She also performed solo and duo with Mr. Roach at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2002. Connie released a duet CD with guitarist Bud Tristano in 2001, “Primal Elegance,” on the New Artists label. In the internet magazine, “One Final Note,” Frank Rubolino wrote, “The commingling of basic cries of life with tempered softness is befitting the record’s title. Raw energy and compassion appear to coexist simultaneously and harmoniously.”
listen to Bud Tristano and Connie Crothers | A Room in Manhattan
Connie co-lead a quintet with alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc at the Vision Festival in 2003. The band included trumpet player Nathan Breedlove, bassist Adam Lane and drummer John McCutcheon. She performed duo with Moondoc at Hallwalls in Buffalo, NY in 2004. She appeared throughout 2002-2004 at Faust Harrison Pianos in New York, NY, in duets with Bud Tristano, Richard Tabnik and guitarist Ace Yamashita, quartet with tenor saxophone player Bob Field, quintet with Harry Schulz. In 2003 she performed solo at the St. Augustine Art Association, St. Augustine, FL. In 2004 she performed duo with guitarist Dan Rose in Kingston, NY.
She teaches improvisation in her studio in Brooklyn, NY. More on Connie Crothers and the New Artists label can be found here…