Growing up in the Central Florida city of Leesburg, he was inspired to take up trumpet at age 11 after hearing Doc Cheatham, his maternal grandfather. Croker was visiting New York City and got to experience Cheatham at one of the legendary trumpeter/vocalist’s Sunday residence performances at Sweet Basil, the legendary and much missed Greenwich Village venue.
After moving on his own some 140 miles northeast to study at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Croker graduated from that performing arts high school and then studied at Oberlin College. While there he was mentored by another trumpet great, Donald Byrd. After earning his degree and gigging with the likes of saxophonist Jimmy Heath and drummer Billy Hart, he moved to Shanghai for seven years.
An encounter with vocal powerhouse and 2018 Winter Fest headliner Dee Dee Bridgewater at the 2009 Shanghai Jazz Festival planted the seeds for their future collaborations. Bridgewater would go on to produce and sing on Croker’s third album, Afro Physicist (OKeh Records, 2014) and contributed vocals to Escape Velocity, its follow up that was released two years later. Croker’s quintet now frequently accompanies Bridgewater in concert.