Theo Croker
Thus begins the ambitious manifesto behind Theo Croker’s newest album, issued as a preface to the trumpeter, producer, arranger, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s most personal project yet, due outMay 17 from Sony Music Masterworks. Available now for preorder, Star People Nation finds Croker at the helm of production, songwriting, and performance, resulting in an intimate exploration of “the everyday rituals of blackness.” A translation of Theo Croker’s personal, spiritual and creative experience, Star People Nation is a self-reflective collection of provocative, powerfully passionate and boundary-busting compositions that speak to our greater, shared human existence.

Arriving alongside album preorder is a new track from the forthcoming album, “Understand Yourself,” a politically charged track featuring vocals from Jamaican musician Chronixx, who adds a distinctive Black, folkloric flair as the music merges African percussion, American horns, and Caribbean flavor. “Understand Yourself” is a culmination of much of the album’s themes, carrying a message of death and rebirth – a powerful missive to let your old self die so that you can move on to be your higher self. The song originally made its debut via AFROPUNK, who praise Croker’s “new cool approach,” describing his latest effort as a necessary “upheaval” that allows for the genre “to keep breathing” – read more here.
“It’s taken me thirty years of analyzing my own identity as an artistic black man to finally fit all of this into my interpretation of Black American Music,” explains Theo Croker of his newest album. As the grandson of the late, venerable, GRAMMY® Award-winning trumpeter Doc Cheatham, former student of legendary jazz trumpeter/composer Donald Byrd and protégé of three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, Croker is an artist steeped in the sociopolitical implications of his art. While deeply rooted in the historical cannon of jazz, Croker reached new levels of transcendence in preparing for Star People Nation.
“I’m embracing my own multicultural-ness within my blackness,” says Croker. “I’m embracing my instrument, my story, and who I am as a player and composer for the first time.” Through artful conversation with the past, both personal and universal, Star People Nation offers listeners a new interpretation of the future, with Croker joining the ranks of contemporary artists redefining the plurality of cultural identity.
Beginning his career with seven years spent in Shanghai, Croker first introduced his singular style in 2014 on the Dee Dee Bridgewater-assisted Afro Physicist. His 2016 follow-up Escape Velocity marked a watershed moment for the artist, with the Wall Street Journal extolling the album as “timeless and of-the-moment.” Returning to the studio in late 2016, he took the reins as sole producer. Playing not only trumpet, but keys, drums, synths, percussion and kalimba in addition to handling background vocals, Croker constructed the album narrative as its auteur, often sampling and re-sampling both live and in-studio performances. Enlisting GRAMMY® Award-winning, multi-platinum producer and engineer Bob Power [Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, D’Angelo] to mix & master the final product, the album is a seamless pairing of the earthly and celestial, a transcendence of sound rooted in its multifarious eclecticism.
It was during this time that he made his first foray into the world of hip-hop, exposing him to “an entirely different form of creation” in the process. Rap superstar J. Cole enlisted his talents on the platinum-certified No. 1 opus 4 Your Eyez Only, with Croker acting as producer, arranger and performer on multiple tracks. GRAMMY® Award-winning rapper Common also sought out Croker’s talents on his critically acclaimed album Black America Again, co-executive produced by Croker’s Afro Physicistcollaborator and producer Karriem Riggins [Kanye West, Paul McCartney, J Dilla].
The eighteen months spent making Star People Nation also included a major shift in location for Croker, who relocated from his longtime home of New York to venture out west to Los Angeles. It’s a move few jazz artists make in their career, especially those as rooted in the New York scene as Croker. “There are situations that happen that allow us to gain knowledge about ourselves, steering us closer to our higher selves. The move was one of those for me,” he explains.
“I managed to foster a new community of creatives in my life since living here. To see how artists from other genres operated really inspired me not to put myself in any type of box,” says Croker. “I opened myself up to all sorts of opportunities. I began really understanding and coming to a higher purpose in music. It made me realize how much farther I can go. You can feel that boundlessness on Star People Nation. How everything and everyone affected me is in the new music.”
Star People Nation’s lead single, “Subconscious Flirtations & Titillations,” illuminates the newly broadened scope of sound. A syncopated drumbeat fuels a simmering groove punctuated by passionate piano. At the center, the trumpet emanates pulses of emotion. Its ebb and flow commutes a moment of sonic seduction, an approach that speaks to the album as a whole. “It’s a very sensual and sexual song,” he explains. “The sound and composition were completely electronic. I transferred it to a band, mixed those elements together, and placed my trumpet in the role of narrator.” Meanwhile, “The Messenger(feat. ELEW)” hinges on smoky blues piano over a rhythm that conjures the spirit of traditional swing, locking into the pocket to showcase “the power of swinging the quarter note.” It’s an authoritative statement from Croker, reminding listeners that this music’s essence remains in the swing and that no amount of production, backbeat or harmonic sliding can replace the true authenticity of those able to master it.
In the end, Theo Croker creates a haven for creativity, spirituality, seduction, and enlightenment throughout Star People Nation. “This is really supposed to inspire others to embrace themselves, their experiences and their community,” says Croker. “As world citizens, we can all be a part of Star People Nation.”
1. Have You Come to Stay
2. Getaway Gold (Feat. Rose Gold)
3. Subconscious Flirtations and Titillations
4. Wide Open
5. Portrait of William
6. Just Let It Ride
7. Crestfallen
8. The Messenger (feat. ELEW)
9. Alkebulan (feat. Eric Harland and Kassa Overall)
10. Understand Yourself (feat. Chronixx)
April 17 | Portland, OR | Soul’d Out Festival
April 30 | Melbourne, AUS | Australia International Jazz Day
May 8 | New York, NY | Django (Big Brother Big Band)
May 9 | Norfolk, VA | Virginia Arts Festival
May 10 | Germantown, MD | BlackRock Center for the Arts
May 11 | Washington, D.C. | The Arc
* May 18 | Dudelange, Luxembourg | International Jazz Festival Dudelange
May 22 – 26 | San Francisco, CA | Black Cat
June 13 – June 16 | New York, NY | Jazz Standard
July 20 | Bad Durkheim, Germany | Palatia Jazz Festival
August 24 | Bremen, Germany | Musikfest Bremen (Theo Croker & DVRK Funk feat. Mapei)
September 12 | Santa Cruz, CA | Kuumbwa
September 14 | Los Angeles, CA | Jazz Is Dead @ Lodge Room
September 16 | Springfield, MA | Scibelli Hall
September 20 – 21 | Ann Arbor, MI | Blue Llama Jazz Club
September 23 | New York, NY | Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Big Brother Big Band)
October 22 | Köln, Germany | Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld
October 25 | Münster, Germany | Hot Jazz Club
October 26 | Hannover, Germany | Jazz-Club Hannover
October 27 | Essen, Germany | Grillo Theater
November 1 | La Jolla, CA | UC San Diego
** November 7 | Dortmund, Germany | Konzerthaus Dortmund
** November 8 | Baden-Baden, Germany | Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
** November 9 | Stuttgart, Germany | Theaterhaus Stuttgart
** November 11 | Frankfurt Am Main, Germany | Alte Oper
** November 12 | Lörrach, Germany | Burghof
** November 14 | Berlin, Germany | Admiralspalast
** November 16 | München, Germany | Prinzregententheater
April 25, 2020 | New York, NY | Carnegie Hall – Zankel Hall (Big Brother Big Band)
*Soweto Kinch Quartet Featuring Theo Croker & Greg Hutchinson
**JazzNights Tour 2019: The Jazz Animals – “It Must Schwing” Tribute to Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff

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