Jazz renegade Theo Croker returns to his Jacksonville roots


Few musicians live the present moment, at the convergence of what has happened and what is to come, with more panache than Theo Croker. Trumpeter, producer and composer rooted in the lineage of jazz, he is also at the forefront of a group of peers mixing hip-hop, electronic music and contemporary R&B. Synthesis shines throughout his recent albums, most notably the feature quantum lovewhich is coming this summer, and BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PASTreleased last year.

In October 2021, Croker embarked on a world tour to BLK2LIFE at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Jazz night in America caught up with him there, for what he said was a thrilling test for his task force. “I was triggering samples from a laptop and through a headphone jack, using pedals that I may not have worked with yet,” he says. “And maybe sing voices I’ve never practiced before. And just try to be brave.”

Jacksonville is Croker’s former playground, the place where he formed his musical foundation. So in this episode, we’ll also take the opportunity to accompany a visit to his alma mater, the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. We’ll hear from some of his former classmates, attesting to both his obsessive commitment and unruly spirit, and mentor (and NEA Jazz Master, singer and actor) Dee Dee Bridgewaterwho first met Croker during a residency in Shanghai and is proud of his trajectory – still an ongoing story.

The musicians:

Theo Croker, trumpet; Michael King, piano, keyboard, organ; Eric Wheeler, bass; Shekwaga Ode, drums

“Love of the Sun” by Exhaust 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.

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Define list:

(All compositions by Theo Croker, unless otherwise noted)

  • More Maybe (Theo Croker / Iman Omari)
  • Love of the Sun feat. Dee Dee BridgewaterCarl Clay/Wayne Garfield
  • Happy Feet (Theo Croker / Malaya)
  • Imperishable Star
  • Hero’s Trample


Screenwriter 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; Mixing: Corey Goldberg.

Special thanks to Jim Daniel, Chris Mees and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival team: Rick Huber, Scott Gartner, Steve Flatt and Paola Lorenzo.


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