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Listening Post: New jazz by Theo Croker and, in classical music, the complete nocturnes of composer John Fields


Theo Croker, “Escape Velocity” (Okeh). Theo Croker has the bloodlines, that’s for sure. The trumpet player’s grandfather was no less than the late, great trumpet master Doc Cheatham. Croker’s got the musical bloodlines, too. Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater – who appears on this record on “Love From the Sun” – is a mentor of his. And he has a rare and unusual international background: He lived and worked in Shanghai for seven years. No less than Gary Bartz – one of his teachers at Oberlin – writes of Croker’s working band on this disc that it is performing a suite, not a catchall. “I have known Theo Croker and Kassa Overall, drummer, for many years,” writes Bartz, “and have had the pleasure of seeing them grow musically.” It is, then, a good eclectic jazz record whose melange of styles contain nary an ounce of pandering. Bartz is right about its strength lying in its existence as a coherent suite rather than a hapazard collection. ŒŒŒ out of four. (Jeff Simon)


John Field, Complete Nocturnes performed by pianist Elizabeth Joy Roe (Decca). “The Irish composer John Field (1782-1837) was so enthralled by the night that he created a novel genre in music: the nocturne.” That’s right. So writes Elizabeth Joy Roe, clearly a practitioner of that new kind of pianist who is expected to provide her own disc notes. It wasn’t Frederick Chopin who invented the nocturne, no matter how beautiful his nocturnes were, in anticipation of Gabriel Faure’s and others’. It was John Field who first “captured the essence of Romanticism in its structural and expressive latitude; diminutive in size but vast in sentiment.” Forget Chopin, then, for a second, Roe’s disc urges. Field’s nocturnes “are gems in their own right, pieces of unusual delicacy and subtlety, even strangeness. They reflect the psyche of a cosmopolitan, complex man whose artistic accomplishment and personal vagaries engendered uncommon success and suffering.” (Field was an alcoholic.) Liszt called Field’s nocturnes “ genuine masterpieces of refined emotion” and that’s the way Roe performs them, without any performance italics or bravura whatsoever, even on those rare occasions when the music is agitated. The bravura here is in the disciplined rejection of all bravura. Beautifully performed. ŒŒŒ½ out of four. (Jeff Simon)