I must admit that until I saw him perform tonight, I was not really aware of A J Croce, other than that he is the son of the late, great Jim Croce, who tragically died in 1973, when A J [Adrian James] was just two years old.
I didn't realise just what an accomplished artist A J is until I saw him tonight. A fantastic pianist, deeply soulful singer and wry songwriter, A J has worked with such greats as Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, Leon Russell and, latterly, the legendary producer/songwriter Dan Penn.
A J has recently released his ninth studio album, "Just Like Medicine", which was produced by Dan Penn and which features guest appearances from Steve Cropper, Vince Gill and original Muscle Shoals "Swamper" David Hood.
A J's music is best described as a glorious blend of jazz, blues, soul and juke joint, with a heavy New Orleans slant to it. Think Ray Charles, Fats Waller, Dr. John with a dash of Randy Newman and you wouldn't be far wrong.
Tonight, A J gave us a selection of songs from "Just Like Medicine", together with some songs from his earlier albums, some choice covers, including a couple of his late father's songs.
Poignantly, on his latest album, A J recorded "Name of the Game", which was the last song that was written by his father before his untimely death and which was due to be recorded for his next album. It was a privilege to hear A J perform this song tonight, as it was when he sang another of his father's songs "Box No. 10", in which a musician who has hit rock bottom is phoning his parents "call collect" to ask them to send him money "care of Mission Box number 10".
Other highlights of tonight's highly entertaining show included the title track of A J's second album "That's Me In The Bar" ["three cheers for the loser, let's give him a hand"] and "Rollin' On" a co-write with the late Leon Russell, which really got the audience going.
A J gave us a superb, impromptu version of Ray Charles' "Let's Go Get Stoned", which featured a frenetic piano coda, the like of which the Philharmonic's Steinway grand piano will rarely have encountered. Other notable covers were Mississippi John Hurt's "My Lovin' Spoonful", Solomon Burke's "Can't Nobody Love You" and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee's "That Would Be A Better Day".
For his richly deserved encore, rather than play a Beatles song which most artists do when they play in Liverpool, A J paid tribute to the "Fifth Beatle" Billy Preston.
I came away from the concert hugely impressed by this dynamic performance by A J Croce, who certainly deserves to be far better known in this country as an artist in his own right.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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