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Steven Kroon: Looking Beyond

By Published: August 26, 2008
AAJ: I was really noticing that you've got a couple of inspired choices—the Jaco tune, "Used To Be A Cha Cha," and the Stevie Wonder tunes, "Superwoman" and "Where Were You When I Needed You." I was wondering what was your inspiration to choose those tunes?

SK: That comes from that great range of knowing a lot of different music. There are so many different songs out there. Stevie, man you could do a whole Latin jazz record playing his songs, because all his songs are counted in clave. All his songs you could put into some sort of a form of a clave. It's amazing, you can see he has a great love for that. He's very much a percussive writer. Some of this, when I was thinking about this CD, I was thinking about that era, you know. There was so much good music coming out in so many different ways...Weather Report, Return To Forever, Santana—everybody was doing some great work. So, I wanted to get some of those kinds of songs. I knew that they were good song, but that they weren't hooky, trendy songs. I want a song that has substance to it.

"Used To Be A Cha Cha,"—the guy that arranged that was James Shipp, a young vibraphonist who works with my band when Bryan Carrott doesn't. He brought that arrangement to me and said, "Steve, I think you're going to like this, man." He brought it to my attention, and I said, "Oh man, I love it—it's different!" It's risky, it's modern. If you notice on this CD too, a lot of the bass lines are a little bit different; they're not all straight-up tumbao and stuff. We got a little more creative and funky with it, because I think that's kind of interesting.

AAJ: You mentioned Oscar before, and I noticed you've got Ruben Rodriguez and Vince Cherico on all three albums as well. Those are three very big names in the modern Latin jazz scene . . .

SK: They're very big names and they're great guys—they're friends, and I got really comfortable in the studio with them. Those guys really know how to lay down records. You get Ruben and Vince on a session man, you've got concrete and steel. And then with Oscar doing some arrangements, it's going to be good. And then I've got Igor Atalita on a lot of stuff too. Igor's a fine player man. He's a great player. The live stuff, I usually use this guy named Donald Nicks on bass, who's really excellent. Bryan Carrott's in the band, and Bryan, he sounds so melodic, so nice. He's such a great player.

AAJ: The combination of the vibes and the sax, it's kind of like you're touching on that Cal Tjader sound, but there's modern edge to it too.

SK: Yea, well that sound, what I love about it, especially with sax, vibes, and flute or sax and vibes—it's a nice, lighter, clean sound. It's not going to just knock you down, or blow you away. The melody just sounds so pretty ringing out. I just think that it makes the whole thing sound kind of sophisticated.

AAJ: It does, it's a beautiful sound on the album. Another track that really stands out to me is "I Wish You Love," with Freddy Cole singing over the bolero

SK: Oh man, that was a dream come true. I heard him [Freddy Cole] quite a few years back, and I became a fan of his. I love that whisky sound, besides—the timbre of his voice, it's so rich, you know. And I said, man, if I could him on my new CD . . .

I saw Todd Barkin, who works at Dizzy's Coca Cola, while I was playing there with Cyrus Chestnut. So I said, "Hey Todd, I'd like to meet Freddy Cole." And he said, "Well, I produce him, as a matter of fact, I'm doing a CD with him now, and I'd like you to play on a couple of tracks. So you can get to meet him." I said, "Oh, my goodness." That album, Because of You, I got to play on it. His pianist is John Di Martino, he does a lot of arrangements for him. I told John, "Hey John, do you think I can get Freddy on my CD?" He said, "You worked with him, you met him, he's really cool, so let me see." So John called him and then he said, "He said to give him a call!" I said, "What?" So I called him and he was so cool and so nice. He was like, "Yes, let's do this man." I picked I Wish You Love," but you could have him sing anything man—it could be "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and it would be great.

But this song, "I Wish You Love," going back to Symphony Sid when I was growing up, he would always play, you know Gloria Lynn had a huge hit on this, and I remember, he had this show that came on between 11:00 and 12:00. I would always have my little radio under my pillow. I was supposed to be going to sleep to go to school, but I'd be listening to it for this hour. Because in that hour he'd play Tito Rodriguez, Mongo, Gloria Lynn, Nancy Wilson, I mean, his thing was so diversified it was ridiculous...Monk, I mean this cat—I loved this! And "I Wish You Love," every time I heard it, I just said man, this would sound great coming from a male. And boy, did he tell a story man. It just lays under, what I love about it; I captured a lot of the memories of when I played these little bars at home. Years ago when the bar scene was really heavy, you'd hear small, little things like that. The cats would play stuff like that—not overly arranged, just nice and tight and funky. Man, I thought that we really captured that, we nailed that good. John Di Martino was very instrumental in hooking up the arrangement on that, it just kind of worked.

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