“The maturity of his vision for life and music is quite compelling and is born out in the sound of his horn,” says Grammy® award-winning saxophonist & composer Kirk Whalum about emerging jazz saxophonist Tony Craddock, Jr. Tony’s discovery of smooth jazz on The Weather Channel’s “Local on the 8s” at age eight led him to the saxophone and eventually to Cornell University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology. Now, he uplifts listeners with song titles, lyrics or sounds that connect his songs’ messages with emotions people experience due to the weather, reaching nearly 20,000 monthly listeners through Spotify and Pandora Radio.
Tony’s latest single is an energetic and genre-blending saxophone cover of the 2018 Dove Award-winning and Billboard Gospel #1 hit “Won’t He Do It,” originally performed by gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne. Tony’s cover garnered the approval of the song’s writer, Grammy Award-winning Makeba Woods-Riddick (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez), who encouraged Tony to release the song when it captured her attention on Instagram. “[Tony’s saxophone cover] warmed my heart the first time I heart it,” says Woods-Riddick. “It was like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a blustery winter day with caramel drizzle on top. This version takes you to an even higher level of inspired, hopeful emotions.” Woods-Riddick adds that Craddock’s cover is her favorite version of the song since the original.
Tony released his third studio album H2O in March 2018, produced by chart-topping jazz guitarist Ken Navarro and featuring Grammy-winning saxophonist and gospel jazz trailblazer Kirk Whalum on a soul-stirring offering of “Amazing Grace.” The lead single “Living Water” (featuring Navarro) airs on Sirius XM Watercolors, Music Choice Smooth Jazz and more than forty radio stations in the U.S., U.K., and Poland. “Living Water” peaked at #13 on the British Smooth Jazz chart and hit the Top 40 on the Radiowave Smooth Jazz chart. Craddock also renders his take on the New Edition classic “Can You Stand the Rain,” while penning originals, including two heartfelt vocal songs he accompanies on saxophone, “Abide in Me” and “Sunrise,” dedicated to his wife and daughter respectively.
Tony has performed at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, Jazz in the Garden, Jazz in the Park, the U.S. Botanic Garden and National Harbor (Washington, D.C. area); The Tin Pan and CBS 6’s “Virginia This Morning” (Richmond, VA); Chateau Elan Winery & Resort (Braselton, GA); and events in Detroit, MI and Waco, TX. He has also been blessed to share the stage with award-winning artists Norman Connors, Jean Carne, Ken Navarro, Ben Tankard, Luther Barnes, Kim Jordan and actress/singer Rebecca Holden (Nightrider, General Hospital).
Tony leads the inspirational jazz band Tony Craddock, Jr. & Cold Front, the name under which he released H2O. The band’s music blends jazz, gospel and R&B/soul, all genres which influence Tony’s music. “Cold fronts lift warm air in weather,” explains Tony. “We aim to lift people’s spirits through our music, just like a cold front.” He also serves as the musical director for the band which he has led since 2013.
“Craddock is one of the few remaining ‘smooth’ jazz artists who actually include the jazz root in their compositions,” said Ronald Jackson, of The Smooth Jazz Ride, when reviewing the H2O album. H2O is an inspirational tapestry of Tony’s musical influences, from jazz and gospel, to R&B and Latin. Tony’s saxophones radiate his winter joy on the upbeat “Snow Day” and the cool “Living Water” gently reminds you of nature’s rejuvenating energy, while also signifying Tony’s Christian faith. The album’s purpose is to remind all people they are more alike than different. “Human nature fools us into focusing on our differences,” says Tony. “But beneath the surface we’re much the same, just like H2O.” Tony adds that water, ice and water vapor share the same molecular formula, H2O, despite their different appearances.
Tony’s previous release Convection (2013) includes a spirited arrangement of “You Brought the Sunshine” (The Clark Sisters) and several original compositions. The album features Ken Navarro on the mid-tempo waltz “1102 Bradfield Hall,” a tribute to his meteorology classroom at Cornell. The collaborative experience between Tony and Ken established the foundation for Ken to mentor him. “Tony not only makes me proud to be his mentor, but he makes me proud to be a member of the human race,” explains Ken of his relationship with Tony. Ironically, Tony also discovered Ken’s music through The Weather Channel’s smooth jazz.
In 2011, Tony released his debut album Christmas in the Air. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “The First Noel” from the album aired on The Weather Channel in 2011 and 2012, bringing his musical journey full circle since that is where his passion for jazz began. The album aired on forty-five radio stations in the U.S., U.K. and Spain and featured the rich vocals of Aaron Banks (formerly of the American Music Theatre) on a bossa nova-inspired arrangement of “Silent Night.” Tony completed the album in eight weeks between June and August 2011, just in time to start the fall semester of graduate school at George Mason University. He attributes the quick turnaround of the album to working with both talented musicians and a gracious recording studio. He recorded the project at A2G Music in his hometown of Woodbridge, VA. The studio is owned by Mark & Dee Ball, a couple from his church who took him under their wing.
The committed support of Tony’s family propelled him into his purpose as a recording artist. In December 2010, he asked his parents to purchase him a soprano sax as a Christmas gift. He had only played alto sax up to that point. His parents agreed to purchase the saxophone under one condition: Tony would have to record and release an album. He embraced the challenge, and in November 2011, Christmas in the Air was released on his Cold Front Music record label. The label symbolizes his synergistic passions for weather and music. “Whether it’s the sun, snow or autumn leaves, I hope the weather paints pictures that remain in listeners’ minds and reinforce the music’s uplifting message,” says Tony.
At Cornell, the saxophone became an undeniable part of Tony’s identity on campus and prepared him for his music career. He performed with the Chosen Generation Gospel Choir and become a staple act at conferences, benefit concerts and a variety of student events. He co-founded the instrumental ensemble After Six with a group of four friends, which he led as saxophonist and musical director. After Six became a registered student organization under his leadership and later opened for award-winning R&B singer Goapele. Tony was also initiated into the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. while at Cornell.
Tony was featured in EBONY Magazine’s June 2006 Edition as one of the Top 35 Black High School Students in America, thanks to his excellence in academic, athletics and community service. Throughout high school, he also accompanied many choirs on saxophone at his church. “I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without the church,” says Tony. “It provided a nurturing atmosphere to practice key skills from Sunday to Sunday, all of which I still use today.” A few of those skills included learning music by ear, playing in all twelve keys of music and improvisation.
It was also in high school that Tony learned he possessed a rare musical gift: perfect pitch. Tony describes it vividly:
“One day in my music theory class, the teacher hit a note on the piano and said, ‘This is A.’ The back of the piano was facing the class, so we couldn’t see the piano keys. A few seconds after he hit the note, I said, ‘That’s not A; that’s A-flat.’ The teacher looked down at his hand, realizing he had accidentally touched the A-flat key, and said, ‘How’d you know that?’ ‘It just sounded like an A-flat,’ I said, not thinking much of it. He proceeded to test my ear with a few more notes on the piano, all which I named correctly. With astonishment, the teacher told me I had perfect pitch, or the ability to identify the exact pitch of a note by ear-only. I did not know what perfect pitch was until then, but it explained why learning music by ear always came so natural to me.”
Tony’s journey on saxophone began in sixth grade at the age of eleven in his middle school band program. “After years of listening to smooth jazz on The Weather Channel and around the house, courtesy of my father, I HAD to play the genre’s premiere instrument: saxophone,” says Tony. At age thirteen, his father connected him with a local gospel jazz saxophonist, Rob Maletick, who became Tony’s private instructor. Maletick, only in his early 20s, was already an accomplished recording artist. “Rob’s instruction really accelerated my learning curve on the saxophone,” says Tony. “Most importantly, he served as an example of what I could become if I continued to practice.” Tony’s list of musical influences expanded to include Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Charlie Parker, Ken Navarro, Pat Metheny, Robert Glasper, Anita Baker, Kirk Franklin, Tye Tribbett and Fred Hammond.
Tony is a voting member of the Grammy Recording Academy (Washington, D.C. Chapter), as well an endorsing artist of the Fiberreed Carbon on alto saxophone.
Tony believes his music has nothing to do with him, but rather the gifts with which God has blessed him. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his wife and daughter.
To view Tony’s press kit, click here.