Theo Croker | The Fundamentals

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The Fundamentals

by Theo Croker

"There are good, great and nice musical players, but then there are phenomenal instrumentalist 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." -Donald Byrd
Genre: Jazz: Mainstream Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Interlude One
2:53 $0.99
2. Focus
7:27 $0.99
3. Interlude Two
1:57 $0.99
4. The Middle Passage
6:27 $0.99
5. With You
5:41 $0.99
6. The Fundamentals
8:28 $0.99
7. Blooze
9:36 $0.99
8. Falling
7:19 $0.99
9. Interlude Three
3:08 $0.99
10. Left Sided
6:13 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A great teacher once told me “Some people want to play music and some people have to play music.” To me, music feeds the soul of anyone who is willing to connect to it. This connection can be established through composition, academic study, performance, or simply opening your ears. Since music has had such a profound influence on my life and spirit, I feel the desire to similarly inspire those around me. I am one of those people who have to play music.

This album was recorded in one session without the use of splicing or overdubbing (with the exception of interlude one).

Interlude One, as well as the second and third interludes, is based on the harmonic progression of the title track. This first melody (of five) will later be heard as the bass line for The Fundamentals.

Focus, which frequently shifts meters, was inspired by a great drummer and close friend, Kassa Overall.

Interlude Two is a return to the harmonic material from The Fundamentals. Here, we explore the harmony under the influence of a heavy 6/4 groove. This song was composed to display the beautiful tone and dance-like phrasing of trombonist Andre Murchison.

The Middle Passage represents the journey of the African to the New World. It was in the bottom of a ship that the spirit of the blues was born. Deeply rooted in a 6/8 groove, the feel is dictated “with no mercy” by bassist Chris Mees.

With You is a slow love song composed with a Strayhorn/Ellingtonian influence and can best be understood through its lyrics: “Sometimes- I sit- and think of things in this world that make me complete- And I notice- that all of these things- are with you- And I start to think- If I did lose you- then I’d be in a world that nobody knows- So all that- I need in this world- is to be with you.” This song is dedicated to Eva.

The Fundamentals (as expressed earlier) is the theme of life and purpose. It is in a 15/8 meter and deals with a repeating pattern of four chords. The harmony is rooted in a tri-chord system built off of the one, the flatted fifth, and the major seventh. The chords move in a succession of fourths.

Blooze is at a tempo that the band refers to as “grown ass man tempo-” slow, steady, and with lots of soul. This is the first opportunity to hear bassist Chris Mees as a soloist and also features an unaccompanied piano solo by Sullivan Fortner.

Falling was composed for Sullivan Fortner to display his unique and very soulful style. It is meant to evoke the feeling of a gentle, weightless, and endless descent.

Interlude Three is the final variation of The Fundamentals. Fast and Swingin’, it was composed to feature saxophonist Stantwan Kendrick and drummer Ulysses “Bim” Owens.

Left Sided is about being on the left side of things. About taking a step to the left and marking your own path.

It is my aspiration to push music beyond the limits and expectations defined by tradition. Jazz encompasses many elements of life & music. It is a lifestyle, not a title or classification. With the recent rise in popularity of Jazz education and preservation, I fear that many (not all) of my peers have lost sight of a purpose in the music. We cannot place the blame upon the current cultural and artistic state of our society. We must remember that we as people define what art is and what art is not. My music must be explored as far as my soul will go. These are my fundamentals.

I would like to thank my family for their endless love & support, all of my teachers for their guidance & tolerance, Donna & Stewart Kohl for their continuous support & friendship, the band & my good friends, Ulysses, Stantwan, Andre, Sullivan, and Chris for their hard work and dedication to the music. This album is dedicating to the loving memory of my father.

Musically yours,

Theo Croker



to write a review

William Kurk, soundphaze productions

The walk forward, with the hint of traditional flare
In the legacy of trumpeters such as Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, and Dizzy Gillespie, Theo Crocker is a bright-eyed artist which much to say musically. The compositions are the peak of elegance with much sophistication, and elements of grit that allude to the various elements to the shape of this music. Nice rhythm section, along with a balanced horn section. From the interludes to the full-length pieces, the album is chocolate to a fat kid, and love to a lady.


Jazz (Paul J. Youngman)

21 years old, with talent to spare.
Theo Croker grew up in a musical family; jazz would seem to be coursing through his veins, a young trumpeter, 21 years old, with talent to spare. The debut album from this powerhouse trumpeter The Fundamentals is a musical treat, with ten songs of excitement, featuring trumpet, but sharing space, with a fine alto saxophone player and a trombone player, backed up by a tight rhythm section that has some inspirational moments. The album captures the sextet as they navigate through Croker's original tunes, some inspired playing in a hard bop base with overtones of blues, boogie-woogie piano, a bit of funk and comfortably swinging throughout. Young Mr. Croker is a talented trumpeter, leader, composer and arranger.
Croker is set to graduate in May of this year from Oberlin Conservatory, a musical and educational learning institution with a faculty that includes, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Hart, Gerry Bartz and Robin Eubanks, to name but a few of the maestros, overseeing the development of the future of contemporary jazz. I would expect nothing less than a good recording from their students, The Fundamentals is an excellent recording.

The first track is a tune entitled "Interlude One," sounds like a classical intermission, but it's a nice, short introduction of what is to come, with a trio of horns inviting the listener to take a seat, relax and enjoy. There is a classical feel to the song, a moderate tempo with ostinato phrasing, solo trumpet is joined by additional horns, adding trumpet tracks to the mix and creating a full brass ensemble. The opening to the title track "The Fundamentals" utilizes the same intro phrase.

One of the hi-light compositions "Focus" swings energetically. The song has some great trumpet breaks care of Croker, a nice alto saxophone break by Stantwan Kendrick, as well as a smooth trombone break by Andre Murchison. At the midway point of the song, a rousing bridge leads us to a piano break that finds Sullivan Fortner tickling the ivories in a subdued an delicate fashion, single note runs and minimal chords played in the high register. Drummer Ulysses "Bim" Owens takes the change in energy in stride, building the song back up to a dynamic drum solo and a full big band ending.

There will be two more interludes, nothing like the first one, other than they are short numbers, in the range of two to three minutes. The beauty of "Interlude Two" at just less than two minutes is it leads perfectly into "The Middle Passage" and a fantastic trumpet display. The composition starts out with a melodic and delicate piano phrase and is accompanied by bassist Chris Mees who plays col arco in a percussive style. The horns drift in and provide a melancholy background that lasts long enough to make an effect. A quick change in tempo and groove, a pulsating funky beat with trumpet reaching into the heavens, firing off amazing runs and reaching for some pass-out notes and repeating the staccato bursts of warm sounding notes that gently glide and slide back to the main melody with so much groove you can't help but be moved. This is a trumpet song, but it nicely fades to the intro melody and provides Mees with a pleasing pizzicato bass solo.

The recording has some nice ballads, some up-tempo hard driving hard bop styled tunes with excellent horn playing. A bluesy tune "Blooze" with some humorous lines, as in falling down slap stick muted trumpet manoeuvres and some ultra sensuous alto saxophone playing. Enough interludes to fill a recital hall and even a bit of syncopated funk or is it "Left Sided" jazz. Labels, only one label is necessary, this is a great first effort, highly recommended - Good Music.

O\'s Place Jazz Magazine

This is an enjoyable tight package!
Trumpeter Theo Croker opens with a cool brass only layered tune. He has Stantman Kendrick (as), Andre Murchinson (tb), Ulysses "Bim" Owens (d), Sullivan Fortner (p) and Chris Mees (b) along with him. "With You" is a very warm relaxing song. "Blooze" has that lazy New Orleans blues theme complete with muted trumpet and an excellent solo from Mees. "The Fundamentals" brings it all together before the wrap with a bit of funk on "Left Sided" with Coker leading the charge. This is an enjoyable tight package!

Gi Dussault Co-Host & Co-Producer Upper Room Radio Show

Buy it, you will have no regret!
This CD is just great! Here on The Upper Room Radio Show, That is too good. For all music lovers, no excuse to not have this CD right now on your CD player. Buy it, you will have no regret!

Mark Robinson, George FM

This is one of the best straight jazz releases I have heard in a very long time.
This is one of the best straight jazz releases I have heard in a very long time. The tradition of hard bebop blowing is alive and well with Theo's band. All musicians play with technical skill and feeling that makes this a joy to listen too. The uptempo bop numbers are reminiscent of all the great players over the years from Parker, through Blakey's Jazz Messangers to toady. Equally impressive is the recording, matsering and production. A great cd that i will be featuring as cd of the week on my website and also playing heavily on my radio shows

Jacques Jongmans

One word outstanding
One word outstanding. This CD is the best thing I heard for a long time. Love the music, the arrangements made. Your great, keep on going. Your music will be on our playlist for a long time, because its timeless food for the mind.

Tony Bates, Highlands 100.7FM

A well produced and performed album that leaves others standing in its wake.
Such creative trumpet playing shows that Theo is going to be a 'jazz maestro' and others could well learn by listening to his technique. A well produced and performed album that leaves others standing in its wake.

Phill Schaap (Curator Jazz At Lincoln Center)

"This record allows you to hear Theo's own musical identity."
"I am particularly close to the rapid development of the remarkable Theo Croker. I heard him play as a child within earshot of his illustrious grandfather, Doc Cheatham, and I heard him at age 11 playing at Doc's funeral. Now, I've worked with the grown-up Theo Croker in Jazz's birthplace, New Orleans, and on the stage of George's Wein's most illustrious festival. This record allows you to hear Theo's musical connection to Doc and Theo Croker's own musical identity."

Donald Byrd

Theo's New Approach
"There are good, great and nice musical players, but then there are phenomenal instrumentalist 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".

Robin Eubanks

Young, Talented Musicians
"Theo has composed some interesting and challenging music played by young, talented musicians." -Robin Eubanks
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