NYC JAZZ RECORD: ESCAPE VELOCITY REVIEW

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Posted by TheoCroker Category: Category 1

Trumpeter Theo Croker and his band DVRK FUNK bring a decidedly pop-funk electric orientation to his sophomore recording, one not quite as eclectic as his debut AfroPhysicist. The 15 tracks range from just over the two minute mark to a couple that barely broach five. With heavily layered rhythms and textures and emphasis on ensemble themes over improvised solos, many of these tracks resemble funk-jazz tunes suitable for commercial radio stations. Croker is front and center as trumpet lead and soloist, often layering his playing with reverb and/or overdubbing lines from open trumpet and wah or Harmon-muted trumpet. His open sound is tart and low vibrato, capable of growls and clean high, long notes as on “Meditations”, one of the few acoustic (sextet) tracks, a recollection of hardbop with an elongated tag finale. He displays creative flair on the duo track “A Call to the Ancestors”, soloing over African percussion with open trumpet reminiscent of Hugh Masekela, but layered with bleats from trumpet mouthpiece. At the center of the album is a pair of tunes with Black Lives Matter inspiration: “We Can’t Breathe” evokes the killings of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, powered by churning rhythms and emotive organ and tenor saxophone solos, followed by “It’s Gonna Be Alright”, an upbeat response over chattering beats, which includes a vocal chorus of the title phrase. A highlight is “Love from the Sun”, featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Croker’s early mentor, wherein the earnest vocal and echoing trumpet triumph over the synth-heavy backgrounds. However, other tracks seem too abrupt or unfinished. “Because of You” is a promising power ballad, which, despite being one of the longer tracks, ends before any soloing really starts. And although just over two minutes long, the closer, “Rahspect (Amen)”, resonates as a completely satisfying duo (trumpet-piano) ballad. by George Kanzler

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