Theo Croker / Afrosonic Orchestra/ Quintet
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Theo Croker / Afrosonic Orchestra/ Quintet

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Jam




"Featured Artist: Theo Croker"

Theo Croker grew up in a musical family; jazz would seem to be coursing through his veins, a young trumpeter, 21 years old, with talent to spare. The debut album from this powerhouse trumpeter The Fundamentals is a musical treat, with ten songs of excitement, featuring trumpet, but sharing space, with a fine alto saxophone player and a trombone player, backed up by a tight rhythm section that has some inspirational moments. The album captures the sextet as they navigate through Croker’s original tunes, some inspired playing in a hard bop base with overtones of blues, boogie-woogie piano, a bit of funk and comfortably swinging throughout. Young Mr. Croker is a talented trumpeter, leader, composer and arranger.
Croker is set to graduate in May of this year from Oberlin Conservatory, a musical and educational learning institution with a faculty that includes, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Hart, Gerry Bartz and Robin Eubanks, to name but a few of the maestros, overseeing the development of the future of contemporary jazz. I would expect nothing less than a good recording from their students, The Fundamentals is an excellent recording.

The first track is a tune entitled “Interlude One,” sounds like a classical intermission, but it’s a nice, short introduction of what is to come, with a trio of horns inviting the listener to take a seat, relax and enjoy. There is a classical feel to the song, a moderate tempo with ostinato phrasing, solo trumpet is joined by additional horns, adding trumpet tracks to the mix and creating a full brass ensemble. The opening to the title track “The Fundamentals” utilizes the same intro phrase.

One of the hi-light compositions “Focus” swings energetically. The song has some great trumpet breaks care of Croker, a nice alto saxophone break by Stantwan Kendrick, as well as a smooth trombone break by Andre Murchison. At the midway point of the song, a rousing bridge leads us to a piano break that finds Sullivan Fortner tickling the ivories in a subdued an delicate fashion, single note runs and minimal chords played in the high register. Drummer Ulysses “Bim” Owens takes the change in energy in stride, building the song back up to a dynamic drum solo and a full big band ending.

There will be two more interludes, nothing like the first one, other than they are short numbers, in the range of two to three minutes. The beauty of “Interlude Two” at just less than two minutes is it leads perfectly into “The Middle Passage” and a fantastic trumpet display. The composition starts out with a melodic and delicate piano phrase and is accompanied by bassist Chris Mees who plays col arco in a percussive style. The horns drift in and provide a melancholy background that lasts long enough to make an effect. A quick change in tempo and groove, a pulsating funky beat with trumpet reaching into the heavens, firing off amazing runs and reaching for some pass-out notes and repeating the staccato bursts of warm sounding notes that gently glide and slide back to the main melody with so much groove you can’t help but be moved. This is a trumpet song, but it nicely fades to the intro melody and provides Mees with a pleasing pizzicato bass solo.

The recording has some nice ballads, some up-tempo hard driving hard bop styled tunes with excellent horn playing. A bluesy tune “Blooze” with some humorous lines, as in falling down slap stick muted trumpet manoeuvres and some ultra sensuous alto saxophone playing. Enough interludes to fill a recital hall and even a bit of syncopated funk or is it “Left Sided” jazz. Labels, only one label is necessary, this is a great first effort, highly recommended - Good Music.

Paul J. Youngman - Jazz (Paul J. Youngman)

""This is young Coker's (age 21) debut album and by the sound of this one, he has a bright future ahead. ""

This is young Coker's (age 21) debut album and by the sound of this one, he has a bright future ahead. Currently a senior at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (in Ohio),the trumpeter composed and arranged all 10 tracks. The music is fresh and rollicks in he straight-ahead jazz tradition. However, his interpretations move with an exciting flair. His tune "Blooze" is a throwback to the 1920's when the blues ruled any trumpeter who could maneuver a mute was worth his weight in gold. "With You" is a sweet ballad with croker's trumpet leading the pack on a serene journey. His tight-knit sextet playing like jazz veterans includes: alto saxophonist Stantwan Kendrick, trombonist Andre Murchison, pianist Sullivan Fortner, basist Chris Mees and drummer Ulysses "Bim" Owens. No, the names aren't familiar like Croker, they are rising vanguards. "The Fundamentals highlites trombonist Murchison and Fortner, both blazing with the backdrop of their astute band members. Perhaps the music gene runs in Croker's family; his gandfather was the great trumpeter Doc Cheatham.

Ron Scott "The Amsterdam News" - The Amsterdam News (Ron Scott)

"Eurobiz Magazine Interview"

By James Roy

"He has the tools, the intelligence, the ability and the talents. The future looks bright for Croker." So said jazz superstar Wynton Marsalis about Theo Croker's abilities on the trumpet as a 16-year-old high school student. It doesn't hurt that he's also the grandson of legendary trumpeter Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, from whom he seems to have inherited his musical gift. Croker, now 22, has impressed audiences and established greats alike with his playing in New York City, and now he is taking his act on the road. His band, the Theo Croker Sextet, has been playing in Shanghai for two months on the opening leg of an international sojourn. He sat down to tell EuroBiz about performing in China and what it means to be a musician in the digital age. read full article at:
- Eurobiz Magazine

"In The Tradition Review"

Theo Croker is a sharp young trumpeter who made his debut recording in 2006, followed by these 2008 sessions for Arbors. The grandson of the late trumpeter Doc Cheatham, Croker salutes his ancestor by playing a number of songs associated with him, adapting an approach that would have pleased his grandfather, one that keeps the melody in mind and avoids wasting notes. Following a laconic "Black and Blue," Croker digs into a brisk treatment of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" with a sassy muted horn, though he quickly ducks out to feature pianist Sullivan Fortner. His peppy interpretation of "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" reflects both traditional and modern touches, while trombonist Benny Powell guests in the strolling take of "Jada." Croker also sings on several tracks, including a swinging "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" and a warm rendition of "I Cover the Waterfront." Theo Croker is clearly a musician to watch. - Ken Dryden (All

"Theo Croker with the Friction 5"

Theo’s playing was a beautiful call for avid ears wanting to listen to the virtue of raw humanity. He has the ability to play with honesty and to play straight, without any kind of costume, just as he is—not nicer, not less cool, not expecting anything from himself but what he is, take it or leave it. And if you take it, you may fall for it (or for him). It makes his sound so simple to recognize once you already know him, and that’s why once you’ve listened to him you’ve got to respect him. - Layabozi (Mache)

"In The Tradition Review 2"

Carrying on "In the Tradition" of his grandfather, Doc Cheatham, Theo Croker presents his debut album on Arbors Records. "Theo is honoring his lineage as the grandson of the legendary Doc Cheatham... On first hearing his trumpet on this immediately distinctive recording, I was struck by his "signature sound" - personal and indeed "in the tradition," but also contributing to its future. It´s a voice speaking directly to the listener, and his avoidance of showboating technique reminded of what Count Basie once said to Buck Clayton: ´I´d give a thousand dollars to find a trumpet player who doesn´t play so many notes." - Nat Hentoff, the dean of jazz critics, was an Associate Editor of Down Beat from 1953 to 1957 and currently writes about jazz for Jazz Times, The Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal as well as being the author of numerous books on jazz, most recently American Music Is, DeCapo, 2004 - Nat Hentoff (The Dean of Jazz Critics)

"In The Tradition Review 3"

Theo Croker's In the Tradition ends with a Teddy Wilson gem, " Little Things That Mean So Much." In two minutes of beauty, with just piano backing and a sound that's all his own, the young trumpeter pays tribute to the ageless jazz master, Doc Cheatham. Cheatham, Croker's grandfather, who started his solo career late in life. The entire album honors Cheatham and he would have loved this group - three youthful players, Croker, Sullivan Fortner on piano, bassist Joe Sanders plus the young-at-heart Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums. The tunes are familiar, the tradition is respected, and yet the players bring with them their own musical background.

Croker is as lyrical as Bobby Hackett on ballads which include "I Cover the Waterfront" and " She's Funny That Way." He approaches "You're Blasé" with understatement in contrast to Sonny Dunham's high drama of yesteryear. His disarming vocals are a bonus throughout, particularly on " I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues."

"It Don't Mean a Thing" and Hoagy's "New Orleans" illustrate the band's ability to swing hard and give pianist Fortner an opportunity to shine. His melancholy intro to "New Orleans" sets the listener up for surprise. Cheatham's old friend, the exuberant trombonist Benny Powell, drops by for "St. Louis Blues" and a good-natured version of "Jada," allowing for some interesting conversation between the horns. And Croker really makes his trumpet talk on "Gee,Baby, Ain't I Good To You." On the old crowd-pleaser, "Bourbon Street Parade," the whole band displays Mardi Gras spirit in music and song, spurred on by Tootie's inspired drumming.

Theo Croker should be proud of this, his first Arbors release. It proves that you don't need to be flashy to engage an audience. It's the music.

Note: To learn more about this talented young musician, search this site for Paul J. Youngman's review of Croker's 2007 debut album, The Fundamentals. All originals, and he was only 21. - Bill Falconer (Jazz


"There are good, great and nice musical players, but then there are phenomenal instrumentalist such as Theo. I would place Theo in a class of musicians who will redirect the flow, change and alter the current of today's New Jazz. Theo has the ability and the intelligence to challenge the direction of New Music. Theo is one of today's titans. He is a Sankofa". - Donald Byrd

"He has the tools, the intelligence and the ability and the talents. The future looks bright for Croker." -Wynton Marsalis

"Theo Croker is one of the most promising and creative trumpeters on the horizon today and is also one of the most energetic artists I have ever encountered."
-Marcus Belgrave

"I met Theo at Oberlin College. As soon as we met I knew that he was on, we hit it off. I had an opportunity to listen to his compositions and I was amazed. Theo is a great, talented, brilliant young trumpet player." -Bill Lee

"Theo has composed some interesting and challenging music played by young, talented musicians." -Robin Eubanks

"This man has made a remarkable impression thus far with his dedication to music. He is also an accomplished arranger and composer." -All About
- Contemporary and Elder Jazz Musicians

"Radio and Magazine Reviews"

“This is one of the best straight jazz releases I have heard in a very long time. The tradition of hard bebop blowing is alive and well with Theo's band. All musicians play with technical skill and feeling that makes this a joy to listen too. The uptempo bop numbers are reminiscent of all the great players over the years from Parker, through Blakey's Jazz Messangers to toady. Equally impressive is the recording, matsering and production. A great cd that I will be featuring as cd of the week on my website and also playing heavily on my radio shows.”
-Mark Robinson, George FM

“One word outstanding. This CD is the best thing I heard for a long time. Love the music, the arrangements made. Your great, keep on going. Your music will be on our playlist for a long time, because its timeless food for the mind.”
-Jacgues Jongmans,

“Such creative trumpet playing shows that Theo is going to be a 'jazz maestro' and others could well learn by listening to his technique. A well produced and performed album that leaves others standing in its wake.”
-Tony bates, Highlands 100.7FM

“Trumpeter Theo Croker opens with a cool brass only layered tune. He has Stantman Kendrick (as), Andre Murchinson (tb), Ulysses "Bim" Owens (d), Sullivan Fortner (p) and Chris Mees (b) along with him. "With You" is a very warm relaxing song. "Blooze" has that lazy New Orleans blues theme complete with muted trumpet and an excellent solo from Mees. "The Fundamentals" brings it all together before the wrap with a bit of funk on "Left Sided" with Coker leading the charge. This is an enjoyable tight package!” -O’s Place Jazz Magazine
- Jazz Radio and Magazines

"The Fundamentals"

Theo Croker’s The Fundamentals is a meticulous record. In the liner notes, the 21-year-old grandson of Doc Cheatham, who composed and arranged every song, describes many of the tunes in technical terms. This attention to detail—and perhaps also a need for the listener to understand the songs on levels both technical and non-technical—allows the record to be intricate without being cryptic.
“Interlude One,” which serves as the bass line for “The Fundamentals,” is strangely compelling. Though the tune is basically a progression of overdubbed trumpet notes, it is Croker’s sly and elegant nature that makes the tune sound bolder than it really is. “The Fundamentals” grounds itself in that irresistible interlude and conveys the ”theme of life and purpose” with its upbeat tempo and expressive solos. Trombonist Andre Murchison solos in a manner almost as scrupulous as Croker’s liner notes and pianist Sullivan Fortner plays with a lilt that is both playful and earnest.

“The Middle Passage,” which refers to the 18th Century triangular slave trade, is another compositional gem. Bassist Chris Mees embodies the agony, strength and spirit of the blues and Fortner portrays the slaves’ fear and cunning in his light touch and mellifluous notes. As a composer, Croker is at his best here, capturing the rawness of the blues.

At the conclusion of this disc, Croker shows his playful side in “Left Sided,” which is, apparently, “about being on the left side of things.” The message is simple—make your own path—and throughout the sextet have taken it to heart. Croker lets loose, becoming less meticulous and more lighthearted and drummer Ulysses Owens plays a simmering solo that threatens to boil over toward the end of the tune. The song seems fitting to end a recording that, despite being carefully composed and earnestly performed, has always been on the left side of things.

- Ivana Ng , All About Jazz


"In The Tradition", Theo Croker Quartet (Arbor Records) March 2009
"Alive in Shanghai", Theo Croker Quintet (China & Europe) (December 2008)
"The Fundamentals", The Theo Croker Sextet (Jan 2007) Left Sided Music.
"Jazziz Magazine Compilation" (February 2005).
"Aural Capacity", Oberlin Conservatory student works (2004).

Radio Features:
Featured artist interview on NPR Cleveland with DJ Bobby Jackson (April 2006).
Featured artist interview on XM satellite radio's jazz station with DJ Max Myrick (January 2006, NYC).



Theo Croker is a Jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader from Leesburg, Florida. He attended Oberlin College/Conservetory of Music and is the grandson of Grammy Award winning trumpeter Doc Cheatham. He has produced 2 albums and is currently producing his third

Theo Croker (18 July, 1985) is a Jazz trumpeter, composer/arranger, bandleader, and international recording artis from Leesburg, Florida U.S.A. He attended Oberlin College & Conservetory of music (2003-2007) and is the grandson of Grammy Award winning trumpeter Doc Cheatham. He is a protege of trumpeters Donald Byrd, Marcus Belgrave, Wynton Marsalis and composer Wendell Logan. He received the Presser Music Foundation Award in 2007 which financed his first album entitled The Fundamentals. In 2009 he finished his second album, In The Tradition which received rave reviews from well known jazz writer and Village Voice editor Nat Hentoff who compared that work to Count Basie and Buck Clayton.

Residing In Shanghai, China (summer of 2009) Theo became the Musical Director, In house composer, and Band Leader for Asia Uncut, an Asia-wide English-language talk show that reaches over 120 million people in 53 countries across Asia and the Middle East produced by STAR World and Fly Films. In July 2010 to the present date, Theo became the first and only foreign musician to hold residency as Musical Director and Band Leader at the famous Peace Hotel Jazz Club performing nightly with his Modern Jazz Sextet. In April of 2010 Theo started the "Afrosonic Orchestra & Collective", a 12 piece Afrobeat inspiried ensemble showcasing his composing and leadership strengths. The group has performed internationaly in Hong Kong and Europe.

In October of 2009 while performing in Shanghai, Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter as well as Tony Award winning stage actress Dee Dee Bridgewater took a musical interest in Theo. Over the next two years Dee Dee and Theo exchanged musical ideas and concepts wich developed into Bridgewater taking over as his producer. In April of 2011 Bridgewater signed Theo to her label DDB Records (Universal Music Group/Emarcy). In May of 2011 in New York City, they began production of an album based on the musical concepts developed in Theo's Sextet and the Afrosonic Orchestra & Collective. The album includes musical contributions from Stefon Harris, Roy Hargrove,Karriem Riggins, Dave Gilmore, and Dee Dee herself. At writing the record is still under production.

The Afrosonic Orchestra:
Theo Croker’s Afrosonic Orchestra is a twelve piece
Afro-Funk-World-Soul-booty shaking-genre bending-mind blowing-barriercrossing-dynamic explosion of sound and energy. Its very existence defines the 21st century, defying musical, ethnical, stylistic, and racial barriers. The Shanghai-based collective features members from
around the globe on five continents including the US, China, Brazil, Norway, and Australia. Conducted by trumpeter Theo Croker, grandson of Grammy Award winning jazz legend Doc Cheatham, and produced by Grammy/Tony Award winning singer-songwriter Dee Dee Bridgewater, the
Afrosonic Orchestra performs original compositions and arrangements of Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, Chaka Khan and more.