BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST Theo Croker
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- 2Soul Call || Vibrate06:32
- 3Just Be (Prelude)00:35
- 4Every Part of Me03:10
- 6Lucid Dream03:28
- 7Where Will You Go03:42
- 8No More Maybe02:56
- 9Happy Feet (for dancers)03:54
- 10Imperishable Star04:08
- 11State Of The Union 444 || BLK2THEFUTURE02:56
- 12Hero Stomp || A Future Past07:32
Info for BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST
GRAMMY-nominated trumpeter, composer, producer, and artist THEO CROKER has announced a new album BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST, his first since the critically acclaimed Star People Nation, the album that earned him the nomination. The album was produced by Theo Croker and features Wyclef Jean, Ari Lennox, Gary Bartz, Charlotte Dos Santos, Iman Omari, Malaya, and Kassa Overall.
"I love the idea of taking it back to the future. The vibe of this song is just when we look at what has happened to us as a people, like literally in the past 40 years, and how history constantly keeps repeating itself ... so this is like a cry of the youth, but it's a different kind of cry - we've heard cries of freedom. We've cried for freedom so many times, and we've sung "we shall overcome" so many times, but we still don't see things overcoming. So, this is like the youth - when you hear Theo hitting those horns, and you hear that track - it's a revolution. And this revolution, unlike the other revolution, this one has been televised. And it's been televised through every social outlet in the world. The idea of oppression, the idea of equal rights, the idea of "when are we gonna really get justice?" The idea of what real human rights is... but at the same time, keep in mind, this is Theo Croker and Wyclef Jean - so we gotta keep it sexy at the same time. We're gonna make y'all think, but we're also gonna make y'all move. Just to say we celebrate our ancestors. At the end of the video, I start to speak Creole, and you'll feel that energy when we start to turn the whole thing into a celebration and into a movement."
A contemporary oratorio, the 13 tracks that make BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST are inspired by the forgotten hero's journey towards self-actualization within the universal origins of blackness. It's a sonic celebration of Afro-origin, and ultimately a reclamation of the culture, for the culture. "Our hero receives a transmission from his ancestors while in meditation that sets him on a mission to raise the planet's vibrations through music that defies the confines of a 'genre' and frees the culture from the imminent threat of commercial gentrification," says Theo.
Written in the solitude of his childhood home in Leesburg, Florida, during the pandemic much of the album was informed by psilocybin meditations and astral travels. By retreating inward, Theo extracted a universal story with major implications and spiritual resonances. "In the beginning, the universe was birthed out of a black hole," he says. "Everything came from blackness. Black is every color combined. So, all cultures are full of this rich blackness. It isn't a racial statement; it's about understanding and accepting that this is not a new cultural phenomenon or new science, that we can reclaim our origins, traditions, and culture to better the future. I'm making a statement with the title and project, 'I can be an artist first before I am a black artist'. I can be a musician, creator, and producer without category."
His talent is innate; he inherited a unique gift from his grandfather, the legendary trumpet player Doc Cheatham. Theo Croker is one young musician who is not afraid of greatness, or the hard work and dedication it takes to get there.
Born and raised in Leesburg, Florida on July 18, 1985, Theo first picked up a trumpet at age eleven after a visit to New York City where he heard his grandfather play at Sweet Basil. At age 92, Doc died the following year, but Theo continued to listen to his recordings. “I would just sit in my room and play my trumpet for hours without knowing what I was doing,” Theo says. “I would slowly teach myself new notes and play along with recordings of my grandfather and other greats. I noticed that I could fit in with what I was hearing harmonically.” It was at a memorial service for his grandfather, when he had his first chance to perform for jazz-savvy audience. “I was only twelve years old, but the way the music touched people and the way it made me feel was enough to set me for life. I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
After high school, Theo had his pick of the country’s finest music schools, but the great Donald Byrd, the multi-Grammy® Award winning composer and recording artist, was like a magnet that pulled him to the Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. Jazz legends like Gary Bartz, Robin Eubanks, Billy Hart, Wendell Logan, Marcus Belgrave, and Dan Wall also taught at Oberlin. “I didn’t want to study with teachers, once I knew I could study with actual players, active jazz legends. That made the call for me,” Theo says. After graduating from Oberlin in 2007, Theo began his postgraduate education, hanging out and playing with older musicians like Benny Powell, Jimmy and Tootie Heath, Billy Hart, and Marcus Belgrave. “They taught me how to live my life. Things not to do that they did, and things to do that they didn’t,” he explains.
Theo received the Presser Music Foundation Award in the spring of 2006. He used the grant money to record his first album, The Fundamentals, in New York City with The Theo Croker Sextet. The band’s members were all in their early twenties and each as impressive as the next; they define the ambitious and highly skilled lions of their generation.
The response has been incredible. Donald Byrd praises Theo’s musicianship: “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. Theo has the ability and the intelligence to challenge the direction of Nu Music. Theo is one of today’s titans. He is a Sankofa.” Marcus Belgrave says, “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.”
“He has the tools, the intelligence, the ability and the talents,” praises Wynton Marsalis. “The future looks bright for Croker.”
So many of the greats have influenced him: Louis Armstrong, Doc Cheatham, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Marcus Belgrave, as well as contemporaries like Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Terrence Blanchard. Composers like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, and too many others to name. Other strong influences come from hip hop & R&B: Stevie Wonder, Digable Planets, Outkast, Quincy Jones, Pharrell, and many, many others. Theo recently returned to the United States after a seven-year stay in Shanghai, China. The experience pushed him to broaden his idea of jazz to encompass other genres (including salsa, fusion/rock, blues, etc.), as all Shanghai musicians have to. During his time there, Theo held a five-month residency at Shanghai’s “House of Blues and Jazz,” and was soon after hired as the house band for Asia Uncut Star Network–a late night television show modeled on the Tonight Show–where Theo served as the bandleader and in-house composer until mid-2010.
It was in Shanghai where Theo met and performed for the first time with vocal icon Dee Dee Bridgewater, who performs on and produced his upcoming album, AfroPhysicist. Available May 20 on DDB Records via Sony Music Masterwork’s OKeh imprint, the album serves as the first release on Bridgewater’s label by anyone other than herself since its inception in 1996.