Park City High graduate goes ‘Full Speed Ahead’
May 29, 2015
Chris Croce graduated Park City High School in 2010 and flew to the University of Miami to pursue a degree in music.
Five years later, the bassist is releasing his debut record, "Full Speed Ahead," a five-song extended play.
"Making an album has been a long-term goal of mine forever," Croce said during a phone call to The Park Record from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. "My mom took me to see Bruce Springsteen when I was probably 7 years old. It was the first concert I’ve ever been to and I got hooked on music at that point and I’ve been wanting to do something since."
Digital and physical copies of "Full Speed Ahead" can be ordered through Croce’s website, http://www.chriscroce.com . Not only does if feature four original songs, but also a remake of Stevie Wonder’s "Don’t Worry About a Thing."
The project was spurred on by Croce’s senior recital in the spring of 2014.
"As a bass player, you are usually playing on the side, but during my last year of college, it came time to do a recital and I got to write my own material," Croce said. "The recital went well and everyone enjoyed what I had written, so I thought since everyone liked what I was doing, I should keep doing it."
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Croce moved to Nashville and began writing and arranging more of his original works.
His initial plan was to record the album in Tennessee, but thanks to his college friend Tim Smith, Croce was able to return to Miami to record the music.
"Tim mixed the album, but also co-produced it with me," Croce said. "He helped schedule the studio in Miami and it was great going back down there."
The album kicks off with the contemporary jazz of "435," Croce’s nod to his Park City area code.
"While I do have a writing partner, my roommate, David Lukens, whose help I’m really thankful for, ‘435’ was the first song I wrote on my own," Croce explained. "It has a swagger to it and I just figured that I should call it ‘435,’ which meant a lot to me."
Joining Croce on the track is another Park City High School graduate, saxophonist Derrick Dymalski.
"Derrick also just finished his sophomore year at University of Miami," Croce said. "He is wonderful beyond professional. I wish I could have featured him more on the album." Neil Carson played the other saxophone solos on the album.
"Neil is an unbelievable player, but it was great having Derrick on ‘435’ and I guarantee I will call him for my next album," Croce said.
The album continues with the song "Falling Flowers," a tune that Croce wrote in less than 15 minutes.
"It was one of those songs that came out really quickly," he said. "It was something that I just had to sit down and write because I was in this weird mood."
Croce wrote it at the piano, and after some light tweaking, it ended up becoming one of his favorite works.
"It’s more complex in regards as the harmonies and [more of a darker], but pretty side of how I hear music," he said.
"Falling Flowers" is followed by a composition called "Homeward Bound."
"I brought this into one of my lessons and my teacher told me it sounded like a Bruce Hornsby song," Croce said. "I think the reason he said that was because the jazz band I was in at the time during my fall semester of my senior year was doing a show of all Bruce Hornsby music. Bruce was also coming into play with us, so I think that’s where the sound for ‘Homeward Bound’ came from subconsciously."
When deciding which song to cover on the album, Croce turned to his friend, vocalist and pianist Ariel Pocock.
"Ariel is an amazing singer and pianist and we worked together during my last two years of college," Croce explained. "I played in her trio with drummer Matt Buckner and we would always break up the set doing bass and vocal solos.
"Everyone seemed to like the intimate sound of the upright bass and vocals, and that was something I wanted to capture on the album," he said. "Although we usually do standard jazz songs, but I asked her if she would be down doing a more contemporary song and she was."
Pocock recommended Stevie Wonder’s "Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing."
"The song was something she had her eye on," Croce said. "I knew the song and came up with my part for it and we did it. In fact, the first time we played it was in the studio."
The album’s final and title track, "Full Speed Ahead," has a very special place in Croce’s heart.
He wrote it for his mom, Jill Rathburn, who along with his dad Don Croce, owns Livin’ Life Park City on Main Street.
"She always talks about staying focused on the task at hand and how important it is to keep moving forward," the younger Croce said. "Her manta is ‘keep going full speed ahead.’"
The song was also the final song of Croce’s 2014 recital.
"She had no idea it was coming," he said. "I had a whole speech prepared and thanked her and Dad last and it was an emotional and fun night."
While Croce has loved music ever since he was in elementary school, he picked up the bass in junior high.
"I grew up playing piano and picked up the trumpet in fourth grade, before switching to French horn in sixth grade," he said. "When I was getting ready to go into eighth grade, I had taken a guitar master class at a music camp."
Although he hated playing guitar, he liked the sounds of the instrument’s lower strings, so he asked his parents to buy him a bass guitar for fun.
"When I showed up to jazz band at Treasure Mountain Junior High, thinking I was going to play trumpet, but there were eight trumpet players," he said. "I talked with the band director Mr. (Chris) Taylor, and he asked if anyone was interested in playing bass, because there were no bassists. So, I said, I would try."
Taylor, who was going on sabbatical at the time, put Croce in Junior Varsity Jazz Band "David Halliday ran the program and I thought Mr. Taylor made a mistake because I felt like I wasn’t good enough," Croce said. "They must have seen potential and by ninth grade, I got more into playing bass."
When he got into 10th grade, Croce was accepted into the Crescent Super Band directed by Caleb Chapman, Downbeat Magazine educator award winner.
Croce was in the program from 2008 to 2010.
"Caleb brings an intensity and focus to every rehearsal and performance," he said. "He worked with me to shape my live performance and that helped with my confidence."
When Taylor returned from sabbatical, he became Croce’s mentor.
"I would spend my free period and after school in the band room practicing and preparing for auditions," Croce said. "Mr. Taylor was always there and would sit and talk with me if I was having a hard day or give me some pointers, which has helped me with my career."