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August 25, 2009

A Friend of Joe's: Larry McCrorey, 1927-2009

The local jazz community is saddened this week by the passing of saxophonist Larry McCrorey, who died at his Grand Isle home on Saturday. McCrorey was 82.

McCrorey, a physiology professor at UVM from 1966 to 1993 and ardent social activist, was a pillar of the Burlington jazz scene. Most recently, he was a fixture at Halvorson's "Friends of Joe" series, the weekly tribute to late, great Burlington sax man, Big Joe Burrell. 

In celebration of his life, Seven Days asked members of the local jazz community to share their remembrances of Larry McCrorey. This page will be updated as more submissions come in. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.

I first met Larry in 1975 or so. I had moved to VT from Chicago several years earlier, where I had played with many players with Larry's skills and background. But I was amazed and delighted to find someone like that here!

Larry was one of the most multi-dimensional people I've ever met. Furthermore, he seemed to pull off each of his multiple dimensions with complete skill and aplomb, as if that was all he did. If you met him on the bandstand (as I did) you'd never guess that he was also a Dean at UVM … and, I imagine, his colleagues at UVM must have felt the converse as well!

We played jazz together many times over the years. In fact, it was on one of Larry's gigs with the band "Just Jazz" at a now-defunct club called "Hawk's Point" that I met Big Joe Burrell, and invited him to come to sit in with our still-gelling Unknown Blues Band at Hunt's … but that's another story.

Because of our similar musical backgrounds, I immediately felt a bond with Larry. And the bond continued to grow as I got to know him better. I really loved him, and will miss his vitality and enthusiasm enormously.

Till we meet again, my friend!

Paul Asbell

Guitarist (Kilimanjaro, Unknown Blues Band)

Larry was an unbelievably special man, and I only knew him in a small degree. I attended his birthday party at his home a few years ago, and had met him and heard him on numerous occasions. I feel so lucky that I had those opportunities. An extraordinary artist and humanitarian. I am blessed for having met him for even a second.

Taryn Noelle

Jazz Vocalist

Larry McCrorey was the real deal, and to me embodied and personified the spirit of cooperation, communication, and support that playing music is all about. He also had a direct connection to some of the most important figures in the history and development of modern jazz. By playing and hanging out with him, I was exposed to that spirit of discovery and creation, which helped me to make my own connection to them. It was an honor to play with him and to know him.

Clyde Stats
Bassist (Will Patton Quintet, Paul Asbell, Dan Silverman)

[Larry] was a great a great leader in our community, for both for people who are in education and for people who are musical performers. He kind of bridged the gap between lifestyles. Personally, for me he was influential in getting me into the University of Vermont for my teaching degree after being a professional musician for 15 years. He was very influential in convincing me to go back to school and finish my education. As a result, I've been teaching for over 14 years in South Burlington's schools, quite successfully.

It was important for me to be a friend of his and listen to him. I listened to his advice because there was a great connection, because he also could really play. He could play an instrument, play jazz and connect with those of us who were playing professionally.

We would also see him in other lights, being a guest speaker, speaking out against racism. And he did so many things at UVM to improve race relations and inspire progress at the school. He truly was a great leader in our community. And a great mentor for me, personally.

Dave Grippo
Saxophonist (Dave Grippo Funk Band), teacher

I've known Larry nearly the entire time I've been in Vermont (32 years). He was always a friendly face to see.  Always had time for a hello. Although he was active in issues pertaining to "persons of color," he and I never shared those conversations. Instead we'd talk about music. He was equally as passionate about his music as he was teaching at UVM and people of color. He was a well spoken spokesman. He will truly be missed.

Warren Hardy
Host, "Hunt's Revisited,"

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