Stanley Dance; Jazz Critic Won Grammy for Liner Notes


Stanley Dance, a Grammy Award-winning jazz critic who chronicled the life of Duke Ellington and is credited with inventing the term “mainstream jazz,” has died. He was 88.

Dance died Feb. 23 of pneumonia at the Rancho Bernardo Remington Rehabilitation Health Care Center, near his home in Vista, Calif.

Considered by many to be the first real jazz critic, Dance was born in Braintree, England. He fell in love with swing music as an adolescent when he heard the Fletcher Henderson orchestra for the first time. But it was not until Dance was 49 that he decided to leave the family business in England and move to America to pursue his dream of writing about jazz.

Dance, who lost 80% of the hearing in one ear while serving as a lookout for the Royal Observer Corps during World War II, found work writing for the New York Herald Tribune and the Saturday Review.


Although he was not a trained musician and did not go to college, musicians respected his informed--and sometimes merciless--criticism, and many became his closest friends, including Duke Ellington, Earl Hines and Count Basie.

In 1963, Dance won a Grammy for best liner notes for the album “The Ellington Era.” He was nominated for the award four other times, most recently in 1979.

He co-authored Ellington’s biography, “Music Is My Mistress,” and in 1974 read the eulogy at the jazz legend’s funeral.

Dance also wrote books such as “The World of Swing” and “The World of Earl Hines,” and contributed to such magazines as Downbeat. In 1995, Dance created the Stanley and Helen Dance Archival Library of Ellingtonia at Yale University.


The critic had retired to Vista hoping to escape the chronic pneumonia that had plagued him in New York. In California, he continued writing for Jazz Times, serving as book editor for the magazine until last year. But the pneumonia returned after Dance recently underwent surgery for a broken hip.

He is survived by his wife, Helen Oakley Dance (one of the first jazz promoters and producers in Canada), and their four children: Terry Dance-Bennink, Rupert Dance, Francis Dance and Maria Lindley.