Growing up in Queens, New York, percussionist Steven Kroon soaked up the sounds of the Latin, jazz and R&B music permeating his neighborhood. The influence of such a diverse musical environment helped shape his personalized style, catching the attention of big-name pop and jazz artists like Luther Vandross and Ron Carter. Along with being a first-call percussion sideman, Kroon is also an engaging bandleader, as evidenced by his third solo release: El Mas Alla (Beyond), a polished Latin-jazz production with top-notch arrangements performed by a group of seasoned New York veterans.
The catchy Kroon composition "Bo Bo's Blues" opens the session with an absorbing Latin-jazz vibe reminiscent of classic recordings by Cal Tjader. The groovy 12-bar jam features in-the-pocket soloing by pianist Igor Atalita, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, flautist Craig Rivers and tenor saxophonist Roger Byam. Carrot, Rivers and Byam are the main soloists throughout the disc, in-sync with Kroon's soulful, listener-friendly concept. Guest appearances by vocalist Freddy Cole ("I Wish You Love"), violinist Regina Carter ("Superwoman/Where Were You") and saxophonist Steve Wilson ("Don Ramon") add extra flair to the proceedings.
Kroon's rhythm section mates are all adept purveyors of the Afro-Cuban musical dialect. Pianist Oscar Hernandez lights up the keys on his own composition "Precious One," a funky cha-cha-cha. Bassist Ruben Rodriguez holds down the bottom end with a punchy drive, and solos convincingly on the Jaco Pastorius classic "Used to Be a Cha-Cha." Drummers Vince Cherico and Diego Lopez take turns on the trap-kit, matching Kroon's fiery style.
All around exceptional performances, coupled with a well-programmed mix of originals and covers, makes El Mas Alla (Beyond) a highly entertaining listen.
Track Listing: Bo Bo's Blues; Matana; Precious One; Brazilian Sugar; I Wish You Love; Used To Be A Cha-Cha; Steppin;
Superwoman/Where Were You; Don Ramon; Minha Saudade.
Personnel: Steven Kroon: percussion; Igor Atalita: piano; Oscar Hernandez: piano; John Di Martino: piano; Bryan Carrott:
vibraphone; Craig Rivers: flute; Roger Byam: tenor saxophone; Steve Wilson: soprano saxophone; Ruben
Rodriguez: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; Diego Lopez: drums; Regina Carter: violin (8); Freddy Cole: vocals (5).
Year Released: 2008
| Record Label: Self Produced
| Style: Latin/World
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.