Trumpet player Theo Croker's new album, Escape Velocity,
arrives unchecked and un-filtered. It doesn't attempt to fit a single
specific musical category, but draws upon the first principle of jazz:
to merge and interpret history, styles and ideas and create a unique
sound. Escape Velocity (DDB Records/OKeh), due May 6th, and featuring his band DVRK FUNK, is Croker's second album since returning from China where he lived and worked for nearly a decade.
DVRK FUNK includes Anthony Ware on tenor saxophone and flute, pianist Michael King, guitarist Ben Eunson, bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Kassa Overall.
Of the group's name Croker explains: "Darkness has been labeled as a
negative thing but the outer reaches of space are dark. Where life
starts is dark. Dark is an endless possibility, infinite and unknown.
That's what we're about."
It is clear from the opening notes of songs
like "Raise Your Vibrations" that this is Croker's world. The glistening
glow of keyboards and cymbals float around him as he establishes the
band's intentions from mission control. "It's a summons for the
listeners to open up their minds and to let them vibrate for the rest of
Songs on the album range from spiritual to
upbeat, and are sometimes invested with a commitment to with current
events. For example: "We Can't Breathe," Croker observes, "That's about
Eric Garner. That's about Trayvon. That's about reflecting everything
that is going on in the world, but 'It's Gonna Be Alright' is the
response to that. No matter what we deal with, remember it's going to be
alright." An anthem of succinct horn lines and joyous vocals, Croker's
message carries notes of both optimism and melancholy.
"A Call to the Ancestors" and "Meditations"
are the results of communing with the spirits. "A lot of people assume
that meditation is very calm, a quiet very clear thing," says Croker.
"But it can also have a lot of turbulence. When I get to a good point in
meditation, I feel like I am traversing through dimensions." Michael
King takes advantage of his opportunity to stride across the piano,
digging up a rapid sprint over the pounding percussion.
"Love From The Sun" is an homage to and a collaboration with Dee Dee Bridgewater.
The renowned jazz diva, who has served as a mentor to Croker for nearly
a decade, revisits a song which she first recorded in 1974. Here Croker
overlays a live recording he performed with Bridgewater with a new
studio performance from the inimitable vocalist.
The organ-driven pop of "Changes" is loaded
with rhythmic energy and cosmic textures, a swelling culmination for a
telekinetic band. Marching off in style, DVRK FUNK settles down with
"RaHspect (Amen)," a tempered farewell that pairs Croker with King's
"We're always pushing our music as far as we
can push it," Croker says of the album. "We're not changing the game,
we are creating a new version of the game that hopefully is all our
For anyone looking to learn the rules, put your headphones on.
Photo Credit: Gerodie Wood
About Theo Croker
Theo Croker is a trumpeter, vocalist,
composer, and bandleader whose powerful and eclectic take on modern jazz
pays respect to the tradition of the music while moving the genre
A native of Leesburg, Florida, Croker is the
grandson of the late great jazz trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Croker began
playing trumpet at age 11 after hearing Cheatham play in New York City,
and by his teens was studying music formally at the Douglas Anderson
School of the Arts in Jacksonville followed by the Music Conservatory at
Croker's musical training has taken him all
over the world including Shanghai, China where he took up residency at
the House of Blues and refined his style. Shanghai is also where Croker
met his mentor, Dee Dee Bridgewater, whom he performs with often.
Escape Velocity is Croker's second album with OKeh Records. His debut, AfroPhysicist, was released in 2014.
Theo Croker ·Escape Velocity
DDB Records via Sony Music Masterworks/OKeh ·Release Date: May 6, 2016
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