Theo Croker is a trumpeter, vocalist, composer, and bandleader whose powerful and eclectic take on modern jazz pays respect to the tradition of the music while moving the genre forward. A native of Leesburg, Florida, Croker is the grandson of the late great jazz trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Croker began playing trumpet at age 11 after hearing Cheatham play in New York City, and by his teens was studying music formally at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville followed by the music conservatory at Oberlin College. Croker's musical training has taken him all over the world including Shanghai, China where he took up residency at the House of Blues and refined his style. Shanghai is also where Croker met his mentor, Dee Dee Bridgewater, whom he performs with often. In 2014, Croker released his debut album AfroPhysicist on DDB Records via Sony Music Masterworks/OKeh Records. The follow-up, Escape Velocity, will be released in May 2016.
Elijah Jamal Balbed
Saxophonist, composer, educator, and activist Elijah Jamal Balbed is a native of Washington, DC, currently splitting his time between DC and New York. An alumnus of Howard University's legendary Jazz program, Elijah has since been named Artist of the Year (2016), Best Tenor Saxophonist (2013) and Best New Jazz Musician (2010) by the Washington City Paper, and has participated in residencies at the Kennedy Center (Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead), Strathmore, Bohemian Caverns, and a month-long stint at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in Doha, Qatar. In addition to the Middle East, music has taken Elijah all over the world including places like Japan, Jamaica, South America, London, and many states in the US. Over the last decade, he has established himself as a versatile saxophonist, having performed with artists ranging from Nicholas Payton, Winard Harper, and Cyrus Chestnut, all the way to Lalah Hathaway, Eric Benet, The Blackbyrds, and Dr. John. Elijah is best known for having worked regularly with the late, great, Godfather of Go-Go music, Chuck Brown for the last year of his life.
In 2012, Elijah released his debut album "Checking In", the title track awarding him a semi-finalist slot in the International Songwriting Competition (2012). On International Jazz Day of 2015, Elijah released his second album - an homage to the DC jazz scene and community, this one entitled "Lessons From the Streets". Both albums were named among the best jazz albums their respective years by Capital Bop, the leading jazz publication in DC.
In addition to jazz, Elijah is equally dedicated to the preservation of Go-Go music - Washington, DC's indigenous style of music. Through working with Mr. Chuck Brown, Elijah developed a passion and love for Go-Go and has a band dedicated to combining elements Jazz and Go-Go musics called The JoGo Project. The band has been highly acclaimed in DC and the surrounding areas, having performed at venues such as Strathmore, Kennedy Center, Mount St Mary's University, and festivals such as the Funk Parade, H Street Festival, and Art All Night, to name a few. Collaborations have included Frank Sirius, Christie Dashiell, Warren Wolf, Greg Boyer, R&B artist Cecily, tap dancer Joseph Webb, and rapper Javier Starks.
Elijah is a voting member of the DC Chapter of the Recording Academy, as well as a member of Local 161-710, the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Federation of Musicians.