|Theodore Lee Croker|
|Born||July 18, 1985|
|Associated acts||Dee Dee Bridgewater|
Theodore Lee Croker (born July 18, 1985) is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader from Leesburg, Florida. He is the second son of William Henry Croker, a civil rights activist, high school principal and farmer, and Alicia Cheatham, a guidance counselor, and the grandson of Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Croker is a graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory.
At sixteen Croker left home to attend The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, where his talent and drive attracted attention both in school and with local audiences. After seeing one of his solo performances, the director of the Ritz Theatre, a former black movie house transformed into a museum with a performance space, commissioned him to compose music for and lead a seventeen-piece band, eventually becoming the theater’s first Artist In Residence.
By the time he was ready for college Croker had his pick of the country’s finest music schools. Donald Byrd, the virtuoso jazz trumpeter, multi-Grammy Award-winning composer, recording artist and pioneer in jazz education, inspired him to choose the Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. While at Oberlin, Croker studied with jazz artists Gary Bartz, Robin Eubanks, Billy Hart, Wendell Logan, Marcus Belgrave, and Dan Wall. In spring 2006 Croker was awarded the Presser Music Foundation Award. He used the grant money to record his first album, The Fundamentals.
After college Croker began his postgraduate education hanging out and playing with older musicians like Benny Powell, Jimmy and Tootie Heath, Billy Hart, and Marcus Belgrave. His mentors have repeatedly praised Croker's talent, drive and musicianship. Donald Byrd said, “There are good, great and nice musical players, but then there are phenomenal instrumentalists 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.” According to Marcus Belgrave, “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.” Wynton Marsalis stated that Theo “has the tools, the intelligence, the ability and the talents. The future looks bright for Croker."
In 2013 Croker returned to the United States after a seven-year stay in Shanghai, China, where he broadened his concept of jazz to encompass other complementary genres such as salsa, fusion-rock, R&B, hip hop and blues. While in Shanghai, he held a five-month residency at Shanghai’s House of Blues. Soon after that he was hired as the house band for Asia Uncut Star Network, a late-night television show modeled on the Tonight Show–where Theo served as music director, bandleader and in-house composer until mid-2010.
That same year Croker met and performed for the first time with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Over the next two years, Bridgewater and Croker kept in touch, exchanging musical ideas. In July 2010 Croker became the first artist in residence at Shanghai’s Peace Hotel Jazz Bar, the oldest and longest-running music club in China. Both the Jazz Bar and the hotel, now the Fairmont Peace Hotel, date back to the 1920s when it was known as the Cathay Hotel. According to one travel blogger, “I have never been a big fan of jazz, but the Theo Crocker Quarter just might have made a convert out of me. I would definitely enjoy spending another evening soaking up their cool vibes. These guys totally rock.”
In April 2011 Bridgewater solidified her professional relationship with Croker when she signed him to her label DDB Records. The next month they began production in New York City on the album AfroPhysicist, which was based on the musical concepts Croker developed with his bands The Theo Croker Sextet and the Afrosonic Orchestra & Collective. The album includes musical contributions from Stefon Harris, Roy Hargrove, Karriem Riggins, Dave Gilmore, and Dee Dee Bridgewater and was released on April 18, 2014, in Europe and a month later in the US on DDB Records (OKeh/Sony Masterwork). On August 4, 2014, the album hit number 2 on the US radio charts.
- The Fundamentals (Left Sided, 2006)
- In the Tradition (Arbors, 2009)
- Afro Physicist (Masterworks/OKeh, 2014)
- Escape Velocity (Masterworks/OKeh/Sony, 2016)
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