DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE REVIEWS “ESCAPE VELOCITY” IN EDITORS PICS 2016

Posted by TheoCroker Category: Category 1

There are a few things you need to know about Theo Croker. He’s a 30-year-old trumpeter/composer/arranger out of Leesburg, Florida. He is the grandson of the late, great trumpet legend Doc Cheatham. He studied at Oberlin College’s music conservatory. He lived in China for a number of years before returning to the U.S. in 2013. He thinks big. He thinks differently. And, as demonstrated on Escape Velocity, his second album for the OKeh label, he is a product of the here and now. This recording has groove. This recording has production. This recording has ambition to burn. Take the tune “Transcend.” It’s 3 minutes and 53 seconds of dance floor-worthy groove fueled by Eric Wheeler on bass and Kassa Overall on drums with some slammin’ good horn lines by Croker, Irwin Hall on alto saxophone and Anthony Ware on bari. “This Could Be (For The Traveling Soul)” kicks that groove into a high-speed head-bopper that glides to a sudden stop. There’s an urgent coolness to these proceedings, as if Croker and company are playing for their lives, but doing so at their own sweet pace, as witnessed on tunes like “No Escape From Bliss,” “A Call To The Ancestors” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” The trumpeter also has arena-sized musical vision, as evidenced by the great jazz-rock anthem “Because Of You,” which is my favorite tune on this amazing 15-track set. And there’s one more thing you need to know about Theo Croker. The great jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater has been his mentor for the better part of a decade. She produced Afro Physicist, his 2014 debut on OKeh, as well as Escape Velocity. And she sits in for a guest vocal on the shimmering jam “Love From The Sun” (which Bridgewater recorded in 1974). Croker overlays a live recording that he played on with Bridgewater onto a new studio performance. It’s a very cool effect. All of this adds up to one thing: Escape Velocity is an amazing album of poise, power and ambition. Croker is an incredibly talented artist we will be listening to for a very long time. by FRANK ALKYER – Downbeat Magazine 

 

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