A rare father-son tribute will hit the stage at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on Sunday, November 17, at 7:30 PM as pianist and guitarist AJ Croce plays the music of his late father, Jim Croce.
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Adrian James Croce’s musical talents have landed his nine albums topping the charts across many genres: Americana, blues, jazz, and more. “I’m always trying to push to create new music that incorporates what I love into something new,” Croce said, who has also self-produced several of his own albums.
His most recent, “Just Like Medicine,” included working with producer/songwriter Dan Penn and musicians Steve Cropper, Vince Gill, David Hood, Colin Linden, Bryan Owings, The Muscle Shoals Horns, and the McCrary Sisters. One song on the album in particular, “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” was co-written with the late Leon Russell, longtime friend and collaborator. The relationship between the two was almost symbiotic, as Croce would hum the melody to which Russell would then write matching lyrics.
His talents in piano started at a young age after going blind, inspired by Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Eventually, when he was around 10, he did regain partial sight in one eye. Before he was 21, Croce was touring with big talent like BB King and Ray Charles, and stood alongside Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder, Leon Russell, Robert Earl Keen, and Gary Nicholson, in addition to others.
Croce’s passion and understanding for music is beyond talent, it’s a birthright. His mother, Ingrid, was also a singer/songwriter and owned Croce’s Jazz Bar. His father, the legendary singer-songwriter who helped define folk music in the 1970s, was killed in a plane crash when AJ Croce was a toddler. But this tragic event became a catalyst to Croce’s career, while he intentionally avoided learning about his father’s music to better form his own musical identity.
Croce said, “It was more important becoming great at what I did than having immediate success, and I was lucky that people dug what I was doing.”
Then, an old cassette emerged with his father’s performance covering Blind Blake, and Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, the very same musicians the younger Croce had been playing. Even Croce’s first audition, “You’re Not The Only Oyster In The Stew” by Fats Waller had been covered by his father. “It gave me chills. He was playing stuff I played myself.” And thus, a father-son bond beyond conventional boundaries was developed. That’s when Croce began to learn his father’s songs on the guitar in the old-fashioned way: listen and emulate. These songs have now landed on his latest album.
Whatever Croce takes on, he creates something memorable. “I do it because I love it,” he said.
The Suffolk Theater is located at 118 E. Main Street in Riverhead. Ticket prices range from $49 to $55. Grab yours at www.suffolktheater.com.