Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Crothers, Connie (Constance Rhea)

Crothers, Connie (Constance Rhea), pianist, teacher; b. Palo Alto, CA, 2 May 1941. Her father was George Justin Crothers, born October 14, 1916, in San Francisco, California; deceased March 1, 2000. Her mother is Jeanne Fahey Crothers, born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, March 3, 1920, a singer. Her parents divorced in 1943. She was raised by a grandmother, her father's mother: Mary Furrer Crothers, born in Millbrae, California, April 15, 1882, deceased December 1979. Her grandfather was Roy Ashton Crothers.

When Connie was nine years old, she began piano lessons, studying with a family friend, Mildred Jenkins. She also began composing. When she was ten, she studied with Edward Hoy who gave her a scholarship. She performed frequently in concerts and recitals, sometimes performing her compositions. She stopped composing at the age of twelve because she had been writing in the style of the composers whose works she was performing and she did not feel that this style had contemporary relevance. She interrupted her musical studies at the age of fifteen because she didn't wish to continue classical repertoire performance.

In 1960, when she was nineteen, she married James Otto (Jim) Petersen, whom she had met while on an tour of Europe organized by San Jose State College, where she was majoring in English. Transferring to the University of California in Berkeley, she majored in music with an emphasis on composition. She studied composition privately briefly with Alden Gilchrist. She became interested in jazz improvisation because she realized that she could not personally identify with contemporary approaches to composition. When she heard one track by Lennie Tristano -- "Requiem" -- on an Atlantic blues compilation, she realized that studying with him would put her in contact with her own way of creating music. She took a few lessons in arranging with KPFA -FM radio personality Cuz Cousenou and then studied improvisation for six months with Lee Konitz in San Francisco. She was divorced and moved to New York in 1962 to study with Tristano. In 1972, Tristano began presenting her in performances for invited audiences in his home, solo and trio with drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Joe Solomon. After a year of these performances, he presented her in solo concert in Carnegie Recital Hall--her first gig -- in 1973. This concert was reviewed in The New York Times by John Wilson. Tristano produced two other concerts in Carnegie Recital Hall, in 1977 and 1978; she was presented there once by the Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation in 1979.

In 1973, she recorded the music for "Perception"--released in 1974-- for the SteepleChase label, SCS-1002, solo and trio with drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Joe Solomon. 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 a record of the month in Jazz Magazine. When in 1995, SteepleChase reissued this record on CD, SCCD31022, Claude Colpaert selected it as record of the month in Jazz Hot. After this record was released Connie performed with Mancuso and Solomon with Lenny Popkin at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and with Popkin and trumpet player Seymour Platt at Buck's County College in Buck's County in PA. With Popkin and bassist Calvin Hill this band worked at The West End in New York City; with bassist Earl Sauls at Eddie Condon's in New York City; with bassists Eddie Gomez and Calvin Hill at The Jazz Hall of Fame in New York City.

In 1975, she performed with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, with Roger Mancuso and Joe Solomon, in a concert in Carnegie Recital Hall produced by Harry Sewing. Connie co-produced, along with tenor saxophonist Lenny Popkin, the Lennie Tristano Memorial Concert, held in Town Hall in 1979. She performed duo at this concert with flute player Nomi Rosen; this performance was issued in 1980 on the five-record box set released from this concert on the Jazz Records label, JR-3. At this time, she co-founded the Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation. This organization presented concerts for  both known and unknown musicians, among them Warne Marsh, Sal Mosca, Liz Gorrill, Lenny Popkin, in a setting free from commercial considerations. A division of the Foundation, Jazz Records, produces records of Lennie Tristano and his associates.

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 the Jazz Records label, JR-4, in 1980, is a two-record album of an entire concert from 1979. In 1980, Connie performed solo at the Berlin Jazztage. This concert was televised for German public television. In 1981, she appeared in three concerts produced by the Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation, duo with Nomi Rosen, duo with flute player Fran Canisius, and in duet as part of a concert with singer and clarinet player Lynn Anderson. With drummer and composer Max Roach, she recorded duo in 1982. They released this session in the same year, "Swish," on New Artists, a record company which they co-founded. This record was reissued on CD in 1994, NA1001CD.

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. She played a solo concert in 1984 at Cooper Union in New York City. This concert was released in the same year on the New Artists label, NA1002, "Concert at Cooper Union." She appeared as a soloist as part of the New Music America festival in Washington D.C. in 1983. In 1986, she played solo at the DuMaurier International Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada.  Her agent for this engagement was Dick Wattam.

In 1987, Connie reorganized the New Artists label as a cooperative record company. Working with her associates as independent producers in a co-owned venture, she has participated in the expansion of this label to include an extensive catalog of CDs, all expressive of the company's premise and label identity -- jazz improvisation. The first release on the reorganized label, in 1987, was a duo with alto saxophonist Richard Tabnik, "Duo Dimension," NA1003, NA1003CD.  Lois Moody selected this record for her ten best of the year list for the Ottawa Citizen. In 1989 she played solo in the Jazz Middleheim festival in Belgium. The jazz producer, radio programmer and writer Rob Leurentop wrote a feature on her which appeared in the Belgian magazine Knack.

Connie formed a quartet with co-leader Lenny Popkin, tenor saxophone, featuring Carol Tristano, drums and Cameron Brown, bass. This quartet released its first record in 1988, "Love Energy," New Artists NA1005, NA1005CD. This release was noted in Knack. Jack Cooke, in Wire, voted it #1 record of the year. The Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet performed at the Blue Note, Sweet Basil and Birdland in New York City. In 1990, they performed at the duMaurier Festival in Toronto, with Dick Wattam acting as agent. They toured Europe, performing in Belgium, France, Holland, Lichstenstein and Italy.  They did two concerts in Antwerp, Belgium in the concert hall de Singel, produced by Rob Leurentop in 1991. In one of the concerts, the bassist was Jean Francois Jenny-Clarke, who also performed with them at Bim House in Amsterdam. They appeared at de Werf in Bruges, Belgium in 1989 and 1991, with Rich Califano on bass.  They performed at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. in 1995 and 1996, with Rich Califano.
Their recordings, all on New Artists, with bassist Cameron Brown, include "New York Night," NA1008CD, recorded at the Blue Note in New York City in  1990, subsequently released in Japan on the Americana label, 28C 8008(A); "In Motion," NA1013CD, 1991, recorded in Belgium in 1990 by Belgian Radio and Television (BRT), voted one of the top 50 records of the year by Jazz Magazine; "Jazz Spring",  recorded and released in 1993, selected as record of the month by Xavier Prevost of Jazz Magazine; "Session," NA1027CD, recorded and released in 1998, with Rich Califano on bass. This quartet has also performed with bassist Calvin Hill.

She performed with Richard Tabnik, Carol Tristano and Calvin Hill at Greenwich House in New York City in 1988. In that year, she performed duo with flute player Jan Leder at St. Peter's Church in New York City. She did duo concerts -- with Richard Tabnik in 1990, with Roger Mancuso in 1994 and with tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy in 1995, at Greenwich House Music School in New York City. She performed in part of a concert at Greenwich House Music School in a duet with trombonist Joel Greenblatt. Connie recorded duo with drummer Roger Mancuso, "Deep into the Center," New Artists NA1020, 1994. The tracks for this CD were selected from a series of recording sessions done informally in Connie's studio, from 1988-1994. In 1996, Marian 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. This CD presented selections from private recordings done in Connie's studio from 1993-1997. 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, from recordings done in 1997, on New Artists NA1026. With Bob Casanova and singer Dori Levine she did a concert at Roulette in New York City.  She performed in duo concert with Bob Casanova at The Open Center in New York City in 1998. Connie performed solo at The Jazz School in Berkeley, California in 1998. She appeared on vocalist Linda Satin's CD, "The Way I Am," New Artists NA1028, in recorded and released in 1999.

Connie formed a quartet with Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso with bassists Sean Smith, Ed Broderick or Hill Green. With this quartet, Connie appeared regularly at Cleopatra's Needle in New York City and at Gulliver's in Montclair, NJ, in 1999 and 2000. They recorded and released "Ontology," with bassist Sean Smith, New Artists NA1035 in 2000. They appeared at Birdland in New York City 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 the quartet, with Ratzo Harris replacing Sean Smith on bass, featuring on one occasion Linda Satin and, on another, singer Harry Schulz. She also appeared trio with Roger Mancuso and Ratzo Harris. This quartet, performed at Roulette in New York City in November 2000. In February 2000 she performed a duet with Max Roach in Bologna, Italy at El Teatro di Celebrazione. In March 2001 her quartet appeared in Albuquerque, New Mexico at The Outpost Performance Space. Mark Weber, poet, read poetry he had written for the concert with the band. In December 2000, she appeared in a Max Roach concert in Tokyo, Japan, where she performed solo, duo with Mr. Roach and with the Max Roach Quartet, featuring Odean Pope, tenor saxophone, Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet, and Tyrone Brown, bass, with added feature performers AceYamashita, guitar and Terumasa Hino, trumpet.

In April 2001, at Harvard University, she was awarded the distinction of "Jazz Master," appearing 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. In that year, she also performed solo and duo with Mr. Roach at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Her quartet was presented at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York City in 2001. She released a CD with guitarist Bud Tristano on New Artists, NA, in 2001 -- selections from recordings done in her studio from the years 1997-2001. In 2002, she toured with her quintet, featuring Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso, Andy Fite on guitar and Ulf Ackerhielm on bass, appearing at Jazzklub Fasching in Stockholm, Sweden, and at Town Hall in Tallinn and the Univerisity at Tartu, Estonia. In the same year, she appeared with her quintet, with Tabnik, Mancuso, Harris and poet Mark Weber, at Lotus Music and Dance in New York City under the auspices of the presenters Cooler in the Shade.

In a concert series by New Artists Records at Faust Harrison Pianos in New York City, she performed duo with Bud Tristano in 2002; in 2003 she performed in duo with Richard Tabnik, in a quartet with Harry Schulz, singer, Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso and Ratzo Harris; in a quartet with Bob Field, tenor saxophone, John McCutcheon, drums and Adam Lane, bass. In 2003, her quartet with Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso and Ratzo Harris performed at Small's in New York City. The Jemeel Moondoc-Connie Crothers Quintet, featuring Jemeel Moondoc, alto saxophone, Nathan Breedlove, trumpet, John McCutcheon and Adam Lane, performed at the Vision Festival, New York City, 2003.

The Connie Crothers Quintet, featuring Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso, Ratzo Harris, Mark Weber, performed at The Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque, NM, 2003. 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 of the twentieth century.

She has taught improvisation in her studio in New York City since 1972. 

Unreleased recorded material:
Warne Marsh Quartet, with Roger Mancuso and Joe Solomon, Carnegie Recital Hall, two sets;
Solo concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall (referred to in text of bio), presented by Lennie Tristano (the second one, with the working title "Dedications," was almost released on Paul Bley's label Improvising Artists);
Solo performances at Lennie Tristano's home in Jamaica Estates, NY 1976-8;
Piano and voice recording of poetry by Emily Dickenson, NYC, 1977;
Duet with Lennie Tristano, about 20 minutes, 1978 (possibly his last recording);
Warne Marsh-Connie Crothers Quartet, featuring Eddie Gomez, Peter Scattaretico, Village Vanguard, 1980;
Duet recording with Max Roach with working title, "Elements," recorded at Connie's home in Hollis, NY, 1982;
Recording of a performance of Connie with Max Roach, performing with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY, 1983;
Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet, Bruges, Belgium, 1989;
Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet, BRT (Belgian Radio and Television), working title, "Quartet in Duet" (most of the takes were freely-improvised duets), 1991;
Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet, Bim Huis, Amsterdam 1991;
Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet (Brown, Tristano on one occasion and Tristano and Jenny-Clark on the other), two concerts, working titles "Standard Forms" and "Free Forms," de Singel, Antwerp, Belgium, 1991;
Duet out-takes with Roger Mancuso (from sessions leading to duet CD, "Deep into the Center"), 1988-94;
Duet concert with Max Roach, Harvard University, 2001;
Trio with Roger Mancuso and Ratzo Harris, Birdland, New York City, 2000;
Connie Crothers Quartet, Roulette, New York City, 2000;
Connie Crothers Quintet, Birdland, 2000;
Connie Crothers Quintet, Club Fasching, Stockholm, 2002;
Connie Crothers Quintet, Mark Weber, poet, The Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque, NM, 2001, 2003;
Connie Crothers Quintet, Lotus Music and Dance, New York City, 2002;
Duet out-takes with Bud Tristano (from sessions leading to duet CD, "Primal Elegance"), 1997-2001;
Solo recordings, done in her studio, from 1993-1997;
Jemeel Moondoc-Connie Crothers Quintet, with Nathan Breedlove, John McCutcheon, Adam Lane; Vision Festival, New York City, 2003, one set consisting of one extended improvised work

Live from Jazztage, Berlin, 1980, one set from a concert at Philharmonic Hall;
"Manhattan Studio," documentary about the life and music of Lennie Tristano, NRK (Norwegian Radio and Television), 1983, interviewee, performer and co-producer;
The Netherlands Television, short feature on Connie Crothers-Lenny Popkin Quartet 1991

Radio broadcasts:
WKCR-FM, New York City, John Easton, 1973; WKCR-FM, Phil Schaap, "Bird Flight," with Lenny Popkin and Carol Tristano, 1989; WKCR-FM, John Cardinale, with Richard Tabnik, 1995; KUNM-FM, Albuquerque, NM, Mark Weber, 2001, and 2003;
WFOV-FM, Hartford, CT, Joe Kelley, 2000; KCSM-FM, San Mateo, CA, Dick Conti, 2000

Internet biographical references:
AOL.com (AOL Music)
Interviews and articles:
The Village Voice (New York City). "Connie Crothers: Galatea Tristano," Gary Giddins, May 19, 1975
Knack (Belgium), "Connie Crothers en de geheimen van de improvizatie," Rob Leurentop, August 9, 1989
The Ottawa Citizen, "Innovative Piano Teacher Opened Doors of Jazz for Musician," Lois Moody, July17, 1990
Jazz Podium (Germany),"Connie Crothers," by Hans-Jurgen Schaal, July/August 2000
Jazz Critique (Japan), "Connie Crothers," Yoichi Hirai, (Spring, 2001) No. 109
Music Hound, Jazz, the Essential Album Guide, biographical and discographical listing, David Finkel,1998
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, biographical and discographical listing, 1998
All Music Guide to Jazz, biographical and discographical listing, Chris Kelsey, Scott Yanow, 1998
Cadence, "Connie Crothers," Robert Spencer, August 2003
Written articles:
"Portrait of a Jazz Genius," a review of the book "Dance of the Infidels, A Portrait of Bud Powell," by Francis Paudras, published in Against the Current, Sept./Oct. 1999
"Swing Shift, Jazz Untold Story," a review of the book "Swing Shift, 'All-Girl' Bands of the 1940s," by Sherrie Tuckerr, published in Against the Current, March/April 2001

Contact information:
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