Enter the AfroPhysicist - trumpeter/composer Theo Croker. Coming straight out of Leesburg, Florida by way of Shanghai, China, this bold young soul-jazz newcomer, grandson of New Orleans trumpet legend Doc Cheatham is fortified by tradition with no lack of contemporary electricity to propel him into the future.
Croker’s new album - AfroPhysicist - comes out on May 20, 2014 on Dee Dee Bridgewater‘s DDB Records via Sony Masterworks’ imprint OKeh Records. This is Croker’s third album and the inaugural release on Bridgewater’s label. His music literally shape-shifts without pause through 12 captivating selections.
AfroPhysicist includes three vocals sung by Bridgewater, each from different eras and genres, and all re-imagined in bold strokes: “Moody’s Mood For Love” (the classic James Moody instrumental vocalized by Eddie Jefferson in the `50s, then by George Benson with Patti Austin in the `80s); “Save Your Love For Me,” (made famous by Nancy Wilson with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1962); and “I Can’t Help It,” originally introduced by Michael Jackson on 1979′s Off the Wall, and flipped here into a sizzling, chattering Afro-Cuban whirlwind.
Though Croker recorded two previous albums as a leader - The Fundamentals in 2007 and In the Tradition in 2009 – the time he spent in Shanghai prepared him to become the daring artist that Bridgewater was excited to unleash on her DDB label. “What was hot in New York didn’t matter,” says Croker. “We were far enough removed that nobody was judging us.”
When Croker met Bridgewater, it was October of 2009 during the Shanghai Jazz Festival, where he was playing in the big band that backed her. The two hit it off at an after-party jam and met for lunch during her next visit. When Bridgewater inquired about the music the trumpeter was working on, Croker handed over his iPod and told her to listen for herself. By Summer 2010, they were in discussions about recording an album. “The first thing Dee Dee said was, ‘We are not doing a jazz record,’” Croker says laughing. “It was perfect. I already knew who I was and I had no inhibitions.”
AfroPhysicist features Croker’s core group: keyboardist Sullivan Fortner, wind and reed man Irwin Hall, drummer Karriem Riggins, acoustic/electric bassist Michael Bowie and guitarist David Gilmore, with other horns and specialists. One standout guest is vibraphonist Stefon Harris who brings his unfiltered spell casting to a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Visions.” “In another life, maybe I was a singer,” Croker muses. “I gave up on that dream a long time ago but felt I could really convey the meaning of Stevie’s deeply relevant lyric through my horn. His Innervisions album (1973) was a huge influence for me, flow wise.”