Album Review

A.J. Croce - That's Me in the Bar

A.J. Croce - that’s me in the bar (20th Anniversary Edition)

This disc is a treasure.  Someone sent me  “Fit To Serve”  in 1998 to review and this listener was ‘hooked’ from the git’ go, it was that compelling.  Here was this singer songwriter who I said in my review, at that time, “(he either wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13 tunes on this disc) that combine intelligent lyrics with strong rhythmic music; one can feel the strong influence of the New Orleans piano masters, such as Professor Longhair, and Dr. John in his compositions.”  If you listen today to the new music he is putting out the same music but you can hear Ray Charles and more jazz piano. The playing is still beyond compare, however he has aged, matured, and grown into his great licks and now plays them with a wisdom and maturity.  This disc was originally released in 1995 and is basically the same disc as was released then, except that it has been completely re-mastered and there is a previously unreleased bonus track recorded a couple of years earlier featuring Flea.  

This is the son of the legendary singer/songwriter Jim Croce (“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”) so there is music in his breeding, however  there is perhaps a slightly more hidden reason for his fantastic piano skills.  He was greatly influenced by Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder and then you can hear strong influence from the afore mentioned New Orleans piano greats, who regularly blended R&B with Jazz.  When A.J. was 8 he honed his piano skills while recovering from a brain tumor that left him partially blind.  He is one of the finest piano players in the Rhythm & Blues/Jazz field playing today.  He combines the rich gumbo/funky side of New Orleans music with the Jazz that flows in the street, with his natural expansive personality.  He has played with a who’s who of New Orleans music such as Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and almost 100 shows with The Neville Brothers.

This disc is produced by Jim Keltner, and is filled with some of the top musicians around no matter the genre.  This is a masterful disc that shows this musicians feel and heart as well as his touch with the music, and ability to lead top shelf musicians.  He is an excellent songwriter and other than the bonus track, written by Sylvester Stewart, and the first 2 songs, which he co-authored, he wrote all the other songs on the disc.  This is one of those musicians who will leave you scratching your head and wondering why he isn’t getting more recognition, as there is so much talent there, and so many others with far less talent are getting notice. To give you an idea of the diversity of this musician there are times when the musicians on this disc are: A.J. Croce: Vocal & Piano, Jim Keltner: Drums, Ry Cooder: Slide Guitar, Waddy Wachtel: Guitar, John Goux: Guitar, Bob Glaub: Bass.  At other times the musicians are String arrangement by John Leftwich, A.J. Croce: Vocal & Piano, John Leftwich: Bass, Sid Page: Violin, Bruce Dukov: Violin, Robert Becker: Viola, Suzie Katayama: Cello.  No matter the style it is heart-felt and gets into those places inside you that FEEL.  

by bob gottlieb  

A.J. Croce

that’s me in the bar  (20th Anniversary Edition) 

Compass Records