Someone played me a record one day, and the pianist just had this incredible touch—sometimes you hear people play, and you can’t describe it, but it’s something you’ve never heard before and it’s something special. Something distinctive. So I heard this, and it just made me say, “Wow—who is that?” The person playing me the record told me it was Connie Crothers.
I knew a drummer named John McCutcheon, and one day, around 1999 or 2000, he asked me if I wanted to meet Connie. John had a studio in the same building in Brooklyn that Connie had a studio in, and he knew I loved her touch. I came over to her studio and just started playing. It was so wonderful that she and I just kept coming back together and playing there, improvising.
These weren’t gigs. We didn’t gig together until around 2003, at Tonic on the Lower East Side. That was our first public performance. And then we had a rush of gigs together. We played the Vision Festival that year. It was her first time playing it, and everybody loved her playing so much that she became a regular at Vision.
We had this great trio with Henry Grimes, which developed into a quartet when we added a drummer, Chad Taylor. It was really delightful playing with her. She had this thing she would say: “It’s dimensional! It’s all dimensional!” That was her favorite saying. She was talking about how things and situations, even if they’re not physical, take on length and width, and they’re internal and external. So any situation with her would become “dimensional!” To be dimensional was a positive thing.
Mostly our relationship revolved around music. We learned quite a bit from each other, and just playing together brought us closer. There was a lot to talk about, and we would go there. We spent a lot of time drinking coffee and eating cheese and bread and talking about music.
However, when she passed, I hadn’t talked to her for a while. I had just gotten busy with other projects, like you do. I wasn’t even really aware that she was sick. I found out from other people. So when I got a chance to talk to her, she really didn’t want to talk about being sick. That disturbed me—that I had to find out that she was ill.
I prefer to think about the last time I played with her. I believe it was Thanksgiving of 2015. It was me and Connie, Chad Taylor and Steve Swell, doing Steve’s gig at the Stone. Connie was the kind of person who was all peaceful. Everything about her was about peace; she had this inner peace that was just so beautiful. Even when the music we were playing got very intense, there was this calm about her that was incredible. And that’s what I think about.