Theo Croker is the grandson of the late, great Doc Cheatham. Cheatham, a veteran of 1920s Chicago, played lead trumpet with big bands including Cab Calloway’s, and did not emerge as a soloist until he was already in his late sixties. During his final 25 years, Cheatham, who lived to 92, was a much beloved swing stylist and a personable singer. Croker is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, not by copying him but by developing his own voice on the trumpet, which he first played when he was 11. Five years later he moved to Jacksonville, Fla., to study at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. During 2003-2004, when he was still a teenager, he became the artist in residence at the Ritz Theater, composing commissioned works and leading a 17-piece big band, a septet and an 80-piece choir called the Ritz Voices. He graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in 2007 with a B.A. in Jazz Performance. While still at Oberlin, Croker performed with Louis Hayes’ Cannonball Adderley Tribute Quintet and he has also shared the stage with Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Nicholas Payton, Jon Faddis, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Regina Carter, Henry Butler, James Spaulding and others. His debut recording, The Fundamentals, was recorded when he was 21. He wrote and arranged all of the selections for his sextet. The music is based in hard bop while looking backwards toward earlier styles as well as forward. In addition to jazz, Croker writes and produces hip-hop, film scores and contemporary classical music.
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