CD Release Event
@ The Jazz Standard
Tuesday, May 20th
Sets 7:30 & 9:30 pm
The Jazz Standard
116 East 27th St.
between Park and Lexington
Steven Kroon, Congas & Percussion
Igor Atalita, Keyboards
Bryan Carrott, Vibraphone
Ruben Rodriguez, Bass
Craig Rivers, Flute
Diego Lopez, Drums
Special Guest: Tim Ries, Saxaphone
(Kroonatune Records KTR 005) Street Date: May 7, 2014
Available from CD Baby, iTunes, Casa Latina, Record Mart, Inc.
New York City is known as a cultural melting pot, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the broad palette of Latin music that fills the air. Renowned percussionist Steven Kroon is a living embodiment of this rich substance, strikingly manifested by his latest album On The One – his fifth release on his own Kroonatune Records. Following up on his highly acclaimed Without A Doubt, Steven brings back most of the same personnel, all of whom are regular members of his working ensemble.
The outstanding array of musicians includes vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, flautist Craig Rivers, and a dynamic rhythm section of bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Vince Cherico, pianist Igor Atalita (who is also co-producer of the album and musical director of the group) and of course, Kroon on congas and percussion. The spirited cohesiveness and synergy of the ensemble vividly reflects their longstanding musical relationships, most of which extend back for over a decade. Special guest tenor and soprano saxophonist Tim Ries brings his exemplary artistry to three tracks as well.
Sterling musicianship, seamless interplay and complete fluency in the vernacular of the full spectrum of Latin music are essential to fulfill Steven’s imaginative musical vision. This ensemble is fully up to the challenge. All of the musicians are given ample room to bring their extraordinary soloing skills to the journey, always fully absorbed in the music and never showy or ostentatious. The enthralling musical tales told here encompass forms and rhythms of Cuba, Brazil and Puerto Rico, all processed through the demanding expressive context of Kroon’s Nuyorican heritage.
Of course, Steven’s deep experience with such heavyweights of jazz, blues and R&B – including Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Paul Butterfield, The Temptations, Ron Carter, Gary Bartz and so many others – have influenced him greatly. But the music here is firmly rooted in the sounds that inspired him as a youth growing up in Harlem and Queens – Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Machito – all cast through the prismatic light of his 45+ year musical journey. A selfless leader, Steven never allows his virtuosity and consummate skills as a percussionist to eclipse the purpose of the musical excursion he’s planned for the listener.
The repertoire was selected with loving care and although a broad variety of rhythms, forms and moods are employed, they are fully integrated into the unified theme that Kroon is expressing. The nine compositions include a pair of Kroon originals (co-written with and arranged by his longtime collaborator Oscar Hernandez), two by the fine pianist/composer George Cables and an enchanting interpretation of an iconic classic standard.
“On the one has been my signature phrase for whenever I sign off, it means to me being right on point, focused. That’s how I feel about this recording.”
The Kroon/Hernandez title track opens the album, offering testimony to that statement, with the ensemble locking smoothly into its rumba and mambo forms. Introduced by a heavily syncopated bass/piano line over sparkling percussion, the mellifluous melody is spun by tenor, flute and vibes. Very liquid, marimba-like vibes, impassioned tenor and smoking congas help launch this CD most emphatically.
Their second piece, I Know You Do, is a most infectious son montuno, nicely suspended and with an infectious tropical vibe, fueled by Rodriguez’s woody acoustic bass (he plays electric on the remainder of the album). Carrott’s vibes solo evokes a steel pan sound and Ries’ joyous solo has a Rollins-ish St. Thomas feel. A potent collective improv of vibes, flute and tenor leads into a vigorous congas solo stoked by Cuban piano and riffing horns.
The Puerto Rican bomba is the flavor for Cables’ Phantom of the Island. Arranged by James Shipp, it’s an atmospheric and sprightly piece with a touch of calypso flavor on the bridge. The unison blend of vibes and flute is delectable and the rhythmic density is enhanced by the addition of Camilo Molina’s guiro. A buoyant bass solo, vibrant piano, swirling vibes and a climactic percussion extravaganza add to the jubilant mood.
Bryan Carrott arranged Cables’ Camel Rise, a cha-cha with an airily suspended vibraphone opening and a soaring soprano sax break by Ries. A funky groove reminiscent of Johnny Lytle’s Village Caller kicks in and sets the tone for a brilliant Atalita solo – a la Bobby Timmons in a decidedly Latin mode – and a very percussive Carrott over smoldering rhythm.
A special delight comes from a genteel and tranquil version of Herman Hupfeld’s As Time Goes By, a song made immortal by Dooley Wilson in the timeless film classic Casablanca. Arranged by Atalita, it’s a bolero with Carrott’s vibes tenderly stating the melody and soloing in elegant serenity; then closing it out in a Bossa Nova bounce. Brazil remains in focus with a samba, Dust Till Dawn, composed and arranged by Donald Vega. A robust swinger with fluid and articulate solos by flute, piano and vibes, it climaxes with the theme going out on top of explosive percussion that includes the added rhythmic thrust of James Shipp’s pandeiro.
Atalita also arranged a pair of mambos. John Heart’s When There is Love opens gently, but is soon surging on all cylinders, fired by exciting vibes and flute solos. The emphatically virile rhythms on Sonny Henry’s Roots frame the driving tenor/flute/vibes unison line. Articulate, angular flute, fervent vibes and urgent tenor solos are all heated by riffs and pushed to incandescent heights by the roaring rhythm section.
This exceptional album closes with Touch, composed and arranged by an esteemed longtime veteran of New York’s Latin scene, Marty Sheller. Evocative, multi-layered and darkly lustrous in an Afro-Cuban 6/8, this richly textured piece offers a fertile environment for adventurous solos. Rivers’ full bodied flute, Carrott’s rhythmic and dulcet vibes and an exceptionally musical and stately congas solo by Kroon deliver on all counts.
Steven sums up this extraordinary album in his liner notes. “On The One is my 5th CD. I always felt that there was a magic to the number 5, and I know that we have captured the magic in this recording.”
Indeed they have.
For more information, visit www.stevekroon.com