Theo Croker

The Fundamentals

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The grandson of the late Doc Cheatham, trumpeter Theo Croker's outstanding debut as a leader would have made his grandfather very proud. Assembling a group of presumably young lions (Croker was around 21 years old at the time of recording), the trumpeter wrote and arranged everything. Unlike many such projects, where a leader has the chops but isn't quite ready to showcase so much original material at once, Croker displays a surprising gift for creating memorable pieces that hold one's interest. The opener, "Interlude One," features the only overdubs of the section, a chorus of trumpets playing an intricate progression that is based upon the harmonic progression of "The Fundamentals." "Focus" is a wild post-bop vehicle with crisp unison lines and terrific percussion by drummer Ulysses Bim Owens. "Middle Passage" opens with an ominous vamp before developing into a slinky blues, highlighted by the leader's expressive playing. But the acid test is playing at a slow tempo and Croker shines in "With You," a masterful ballad that shows his obvious gifts as a thoughtful player and composer. Alto saxophonist Stantman Kendrick, trombonist Andre Murchison, pianist Sullivan Fortner, and bassist Chris Mees all provide excellent support throughout the session.

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