Cream Premiere: A.J. Croce Makes ‘Nothing From Nothing’ His Own

The phenomenal pianist and singer’s cover of the Billy Preston classic opens his forthcoming LP By Request

by Stephen Trageser
Nov 19, 2020 8 AM
Credit: Photo Joshua Black Wilkins

One of the most remarkable performances I’ve seen was singer-songwriter-pianist A.J Croce (son of the late Jim) performing with Luther Dickinson and Shardé Thomas during AmericanaFest in 2015. Dickinson and Thomas had played together before; they’d spoken with Croce but had not performed with him until he stepped onstage at The Basement East. Croce slipped right into their musical relationship as if he’d been in their band for years, reeling off barrelhouse piano runs that perfectly complemented Dickinson’s live-wire slide guitar and Thomas’ danceable rhythms.

That feeling of musical communication and camaraderie very much informs Croce’s forthcoming project, a covers LP called By Request that’s set for a Feb. 5 release via Compass Records. Today, we’re very pleased to premiere the opening track, a rendition of stunning keyboardist and singer Billy Preston’s 1974 hit “Nothing From Nothing.” (Fun fact: Preston performed the song when he was the musical guest on the inaugural episode of Saturday Night Live.)

“Like many of the songs I recorded for By Request, ‘Nothing From Nothing’ was written by an iconic keyboard player,” writes Croce. “Whether as a solo artist or a sideman, Billy Preston was an influence on me and my playing. I’ve always been drawn to players who have a sound of their own. Unlike guitar, which allows players an endless array of instruments, amps, pedals and options to create an identifiable tone, piano requires the player themselves to create uniqueness. With my recording, I wanted to pay tribute to the original while making it my own.

“With the help of Jim Hoke, I was able to rearrange the horns from the sound of the circus, to a more sophisticated and slightly more Stevie Wonder-inspired part. Like all the songs on this album, it was recorded live, with few exceptions. I wanted it to feel and sound like you were hanging out at my place with a bunch of close friends.”

Take a listen below as Croce & Co. dig into the rollicking kiss-off of a tune, with Croce’s piano very much at the fore. You can preorder the record at your favorite record store or via this handy link, and keep an eye on Croce’s website and social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) for updates.