The cover of Señor Kroon
suggests quite a bit about the music that the CD contains. First of all, there is Steven Kroon, percussionist, dressed in tans and browns, the colors of his instruments--congas, timbales, a berimbau, a shakere--which are arrayed around him outdoors under a spreading tree, as are even more instruments. Producers of "concept" CD’s should take note of Señor Kroon’s
truth-in-packaging approach. What you see, in truth, is actually what you will hear through all of the CD’s 8 tracks.
And what you hear is energetic percussion, controlled and still polyrhythmic, whose suggestions of dance and celebration are expressed melodically most often by flute, saxophone, and piano, not to mention Steve Nelson’s vibraphoned enhancement of the naturalistic, wood-like properties of instruments struck by mallets, sticks and hands. The first track, eponymously entitled "Señor Kroon," comes forth propulsively, Oscar Hernandez’s piano in clavé, Kroon’s congas involved in percussive elocution with the vocabulary of Cuban rhythm.
Forsaking the trumpets of Tito Puente or the trombones of Eddie Palmieri but instead featuring the lighter sounds of the reeds, Kroon attains a more insinuating sound. For instance, the expressive saxophone part in Dom Salvador’s "Mi Alma" suggests Havana’s Tropicana nightclub, or of a number of others where a rhumba induces those in the audience to get up and dance.
In the midst of all of the Latin tunes written by Kroon and/or members of his group emerges one track from the American songbook, "My One and Only Love," and one well-known jazz standard, Freddie Hubbard’s "Crisis." The more notable of the two is "My One and Only Love" because Kroon recruits his long-time friend and musical associate, Ron Carter, who in turn seemed to have recruited his friend and musical associate, Houston Person. In spite of Person’s reputation for straightahead blues and working for decades as the instrumental response to Etta Jones’s call, Carter knows of Person’s ability to attain a Brazilian feel in his playing--a point he made abundantly clear on Carter’s CD Orfeu
(on which, not so coincidentally, Kroon played percussion). With the relaxed professionalism of consummate professionals, the sextet eases through the song as if it were sung, even in the absence of words. On the other hand, "Crisis" is cannily adapted to a Latin beat as if it were written for such a group, Tim Ries’s tenor sax interweaving with Mauricio Smith’s flute to create a rich, complex fabric.
After too many years of adding rhythmic excitement to the recordings of artists like Spyro Gyra, Jimmy Heath or Diana Krall, Steven Kroon finally has the opportunity to highlight the strengths of his talents on a CD produced by him, for him and of him.