Star People Nation

Star People Nation

Theo Croker is an LA-based experimentalist and grandson of trumpet great Doc Cheatham, and has collaborated with J. Cole and Common, among others. His fifth proper solo album showcases a consistently maturing trumpeter whose jazz and hip-hop roots are equally immersive. Throughout, there’s a vibrant and unpredictable atmosphere of live jazz combo blended with sampling or other electronic overlays (a particular strength of mixing engineer Bob Power). Michael King’s acoustic piano and warm, enfolding keyboard textures play a decisive role, as do the solid upright bass of Eric Wheeler and the crisp groove constructions of drummer Kassa Overall. Croker is eloquent as a soloist and a player of tightly woven parts with saxophonist Irwin Hall (who doubles flute beautifully on “Crestfallen,” a good example of the smart harmonic twists in Croker’s compositions). The single “Subconscious Flirtations and Titillations” juxtaposes a laidback, lyrical melody with a skittering, agitated drum feel, something that resurfaces in another guise on “Just Let It Ride.” While instrumental jazz is the focus, the opening “Have You Come to Stay” incorporates ghostly vocal textures; “Getaway Gold,” a pop-like song with an infectious syncopated flow, features singer Rose Gold with a killer opening line: “You remind me of a Buick LeSabre.” “Understand Yourself” brings Jamaica’s Chronixx into the fold for a politically aware vocal send-off: “When we’re together we’re so dangerous/The systems are afraid of us.”

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