Jazz renegade Theo Croker returns to his Jacksonville roots
Few musicians live in the present moment, at the convergence of what came before and what’s up ahead, with more panache than Theo Croker. A trumpeter, producer and composer rooted in the jazz lineage, he’s also within the vanguard of a peer group blending hip-hop, electronic music and contemporary R&B. The synthesis shines throughout his recent albums, notably the feature-laden Love Quantum, which arrives this summer, and BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PAST, which released last year.
In Oct. 2021, Croker kicked off a world tour for BLK2LIFE at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Jazz Night in America caught up with him there, for what he characterized as an exciting test run for his working band. “I was triggering samples from a laptop and through a headphone jack, using pedals that I maybe hadn’t worked out yet,” he says. “And maybe singing vocals that I had never practiced yet. And just trying to be brave.”
Jacksonville is Croker’s old stomping grounds, the place where he formed his musical foundation. So in this episode, we’ll also take the opportunity to tag along on a visit to his alma mater, the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. We’ll hear from some of his former classmates, attesting both to his obsessive commitment and his unruly spirit, and from mentor (and NEA Jazz Master, vocalist and actor) Dee Dee Bridgewater, who first encountered Croker during a residency in Shanghai and who takes pride in his trajectory — still very much an unfolding story.
Theo Croker, trumpet; Michael King, piano, keyboard, organ; Eric Wheeler, bass; Shekwaga Ode, drums
“Love from the Sun” from Escape Velocity
Theo Croker, trumpet; Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocals; Irwin Hall, alto saxophone; Michael King, fender rhodes, piano; Eric Wheeler, acoustic bass; Kassa Overall, drums, programming, sampling, sequencing.
(All compositions by Theo Croker, except as indicated)
No More Maybe (Theo Croker / Iman Omari)
Love from the Sun feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater (Carl Clay / Wayne Garfield)
Happy Feet (Theo Croker / Malaya)
Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Vice President of Visuals and Strategy at NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.
Concert engineer: Uller Bailey & Jim Stafford, Eclipse Recording Co. St Augustine, Florida; Mix: Corey Goldberg.
Special thanks to Jim Daniel, Chris Mees, and the team from the Jacksonville Jazz Festival: Rick Huber, Scott Gartner, Steve Flatt and Paola Lorenzo.