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Theo Croker: Afro-Physicist

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Afro Physicist, trumpeter Theo Croker’s third album as a leader and his debut on Dee Dee Bridgewater’s DDB imprint and the Sony-owned OKeh brand, showcases him in a context that might be called “retro-progressive.” Many of its stylistic elements have a distinct ’70s-era flavor, but the way Croker mashes them together and then tops everything off with his straightforward but imaginative soloing marks him as an avatar of genre-defying postmodernism. “Realize,” for instance, blazes no new trails-rock/jazz/funk fusionists staked out this territory at least 35 years ago-but Croker stutters, slurs and wah-wahs up a storm while never obscuring the melody or descending into self-parody or snark. “Light Skinned Beauty” begins with a power-rock intro then progresses through movements propelled first by throbbing urban funk and then by lightly dancing swing, above which Croker fires out solos in a warm, Miles-ian timbre toughened by his linear thrust amid the shape-shifting aural landscape.

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