His main theme, however, is himself. He is a theatrical writer, and his goal as often as not is to get you to watch him perform. No one is going to suppose that, even at his finest, his individual performances, considered as contributions to American literature, reached the level of his literary heroes. Still, his ambition matched theirs. He considered himself one of the greats, even if he wasn’t, except in flashes. But he was a serious man, and there was always something thrilling in watching him make the effort. The reliable solidity of his instinct was part of it—his instinctively heroic concept of the African American story and its place in American democracy, and his concept of jazz at the center of the story. But at the deepest level his ambition was a matter of verbal tone.
He explains in Kansas City Lightning that, in the 1930s, the jazz musicians considered themselves an elite, which obviously they were. They were a group of musicians who had conceived of music in a new and brilliant and difficult way that other musicians did not understand and could not play. But they were an elite who also measured their superiority in a fiercely individualist manner. Each musician within the elite wanted to demonstrate that not only could he meet the technical demands of the most challenging jazz, which few musicians could do, but he could produce a sound on his own instrument that resembled no one else’s—a golden sound, or a smoky one, or gritty, or overintense, or laid-back, or something, which, because it was true to the individual musician, nobody else would be able to duplicate. An elite of technically superior hyper-individualists: That was the idea. That was Stanley Crouch’s idea, as well. He wanted his voice on the page to sound like no one else’s among the American writers—and, sure enough, his voice, confident and melodious, sounded like no one else’s.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor