WBGO Radar

Steve Kroon: On The One

Steven Kroon's album On The One

I'm told from folks who grew up in Spanish Harlem that hot summer nights always held a special place in the neighborhood.

As people fled melting homes for a wisp of breeze they could identify as cool, there was the beat; the rhythmic heat  that poured from open apartment windows, cars all rolled-down, clubs with doors pinned against the outside walls, as everyone looked for fun, on the one.

Steve Kroon was raised in this climate - first in Spanish Harlem, and then in Queens, both melting pots for island-influenced residents who brought with them, among many cultural belongings, the beat.

Steve Kroon wanted this to be his life, so he went to work; he studied Afro-Cuban rhythms  with Tommy Lopez, Sr., and Brazilian beats with Dom Um Romao. Lopez also took Kroon out to late-night clubs, which burned brightly with the fire from wall-to-wall rumberos.

Steve caught fire, and it paid off. The percussionist has worked with Paulinho Da Costa, Ron Carter, Ralph MacDonald, Diana Krall, Aretha Franklin, Gary Bartz and blues giant Paul Butterfield, in addition to two decades with Luther Vandross, highlighting his versatility, which has kept his skills in high demand.  

All these memories and outstanding musicianship come together for On The One, Steve Kroon's fifth recording as leader.

Long time Kroontune bandmates Igor Atalita on keyboards, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, flutist Craig Rivers, bassist Ruben Rodriguez and drummer Vince Cherico are with him once again.

Steve also tapped Tim Ries for tenor and soprano sax work on this one. As Kroon says, "Tim added great blend and color in addition to his amazing solos."

Those summer nights in Spanish Harlem get to you right away with the title track opening these doors wide, where "Roots" continues with Rivers' flute and Carrott's vibraphone urging you to stay for more.

Ries's tenor sax seals the feel, and Atalita's keyboard helps you discover moves you weren't aware of.

"Phantom Of The Island", one of two tunes on this disc written by pianist George Cables, first appeared on his 1994 release, "Beyond Forever." Kroon & Co.,  with solid bass soloing from Rodriguez, Atalita's keys, Carrott's vibes and Kroon's infectious rhythms putting this version on the map.

Play it, Sam... even Bogart would've turned his head at hearing the group's  rendition of "As Time Goes By," which infuses this evergreen with some Spanish tinge.

I once referred to pianist Donald Vega as one of the area's most well-known unknowns; his "Dust Till Dawn" shows us the light of musicians on the one, having fun.

"When There Is Love" has the band relaying the pulse known to anyone who has been there.

"Camel Rise" lends a new feeling to those who remember this one from Bobby Hutcherson's "Montara" Blue Note release of the mid 70s.

Newark native Marty Sheller was a trumpeter, but more widely known for his composing and arranging for Mongo Santamaria, Larry Harlow and Tito Puente, among countless others. 

Early on, he was also playing in those after hours clubs in Harlem mentioned earlier. Seems fitting his "Touch" brings this one, On The One, to a close.

Steve Kroon will undoubtedly gain new fans with his new release, which comes out May 6th. He celebrates it with a live performance at Jazz Standard in New York on May 20th.

  -  Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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