Rainy Day Pizza Delivery
2023 / John Croarkin
Review by Kathy Parsons
John Croarkin is an incredible multi-instrumentalist and composer who was also a recording engineer for more than twenty years. I was able to get to know John a bit when he toured with pianist/composer Scott Cossu and they performed in my house concert series a couple of times. I was beyond impressed with John's mastery of the various instruments he played in the concerts - flutes (including bass flute), sax and harmonica. The only recorded music I had heard of John's was when he played on Cossu's Safe In Your Arms (2015) album, so I was really happy to hear that he had recently released a new album of his own compositions. Titled Rainy Day Pizza Delivery, the album's artwork (by Scott Ward) is as whimsical as the title. Several of the nine pieces on the album are named for and dedicated to family members, making the music even more personal. John is proficient in many styles of music, and although I would call Rainy Day Pizza Delivery jazz, it ventures into several jazz sub-genres, including Brazilian.
John explains the album's origins:
"This project began quite by accident. In March of 2020 I lost my dear sister-in-law Chris after a courageous 20 year battle with cancer. I had written the song 'Chrissy' for her and decided to make the best recording I could of the song as a tribute. I contacted some of my top musician friends from Seattle, Oakland, Minneapolis, & NYC and they all recorded their parts in their home studios. The results were so good that I decided to continue recording more of my compositions this way....I built up a network of friends with home studios from across the U.S., Brazil and Japan to record with me....Having worked as a recording engineer for more than 20 years I was able to use my skill set to produce and mix this album at home without the need of the traditional recording studio."
The sound quality of the album rivals that of a traditional studio, and there is no hint that the parts were recorded separately. John plays baritone sax, flutes, saxophones, bass flute, and clarinets. The ensemble of other musicians includes drums and percussion, guitars, electric and acoustic piano, bass, accordion, strings, vibraphone and vocals. Both relaxing and energizing, it's a great album for focused listening as well as bright and sunny background music.
Rainy Day Pizza Delivery begins with "Chrissy," the piece dedicated to John's sister-in-law. Bright and lively with a rhythmic groove, it is a celebration of someone well-loved. John plays baritone sax backed with drums and percussion, bass, guitar and electronic piano - a great start! "Mindy" was composed for John's wife (still very much alive!) and has a slower, easy feel that suggests a deep sense of contentment - a favorite! The title track is as bright and playful as its title with flutes, sax, keyboard, accordion, bass, drums and percussion creating a carefree happy dance. "Neve Azul" (blue snow) cools it down a bit while maintaining an easy groove. "Peggy" was composed in honor of John's mother and has more of a big-band sound with strings, drums, clarinets, keyboard, flutes and saxes. "Judy's Song" is a tribute to John's sister, who passed away in 2021. This time the "band" consists of flutes and saxes, keyboard, drums and bass. Soulful and graceful, it suggests the movement of a bittersweet slow dance - I really like this one, too! "In the Cocoon" is the only vocal track, with Japanese lyrics written and sung by Noriko Ikejiri, who also plays guitar. Other instrumentation includes vibraphone, flutes, sax, bass and drums.
Rainy Day Pizza Delivery is a joy from start to finish and is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Bandcamp and streaming sites including Spotify. Both thumbs up!
May 3, 2023