Summary : Good music is good music, no matter what you call it, and what you have on AfroPhysicist is good music.
As trumpeter Theo Croker tells it, AfroPhysicist, the title of his new album due for release May 20 is taken from a nickname hung on him by his older brother. It fits, he says, because it reflects his passion for different artistic directions. Think mad scientist at work, “a crazy person in the basement snatching all these things together.”
What he’s getting at is a refusal to limit himself musically. Good music is good music, no matter what you call it, and what you have on AfroPhysicist is good music—a little soul, a bit of funk, and a lot of very fine jazz.
Florida born Croker has been plying his trade in Shanghai where he met Dee Dee Bridgewater during a 2009 jazz festival. He was playing in the band that was backing the singer, and she must have heard something she liked, because eventually they began discussing the possibility of an album for the singer’s DDB Records. And now we have the Bridgewater produced result.
Croker is working with a basic ensemble: Sullivan Fortner on keyboards, Irwin Hall on reeds, Karriem Riggins on drums, Michael Bowie on bass, electric and acoustic, David Gilmore on guitar, plus a guest list including Bridgewater herself on three tracks, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and trumpeter Roy Hargrove.
He opens with a short solo trumpet piece called “Alapa (for Doc)” written I would imagine to honor his grandfather, trumpet great Doc Cheatham, followed by a dynamic funky original, “Realize,” that gets the whole sextet screaming. “It’s Not You It’s Me (But You Didn’t Help)” has a quirky title that could suggest a blues number, but goes for a happier vibe. “Light Skinned Beauty” mixes genres as a metaphor for the mixture of genes which blurs racial identity. There is also a rapid-fire romp through “The Fundamentals.”
The husky-toned Bridgewater’s three vocals are on “Moody’s Mood For Love,” “Save Your Love For Me,” and an Afro-Cuban flavored arrangement of “I Can’t Help It,” with a little scat added. Harris joins in on the Stevie Wonder composition, “Visions,” and Hargrove does the vocal on his own piece dedicated to his father, “Roy Allan.” “Bo Masekela,” Caiphus Semenya’s tribute to South Africa’s Hugh, concludes this very fine album.