Jazz CD Reviews

Steven Kroon – El Mas Alla (Beyond) – Kroonatune Records

A mature and satisfying statement from a Latin jazz master

Published on January 7, 2009

Steven Kroon – El Mas Alla (Beyond) – Kroonatune Records

Steven Kroon – El Mas Alla (Beyond) – Kroonatune Records KTR 0003, 58:54 ****1/2:

(Steven Kroon – percussion; Igor Atalita – piano; Oscar Hernandez – piano; Bryan Carrott – vibes; Craig Rivers – flute; Roger Byam – tenor sax; Ruben Rodriguez – bass; Vince Cherico – drums; Diego Lopez – drums; with guests Steve Wilson – soprano sax; John Di Martino – piano; Freddie Cole – vocal; Regina Carter – violin)

Kroon, one of the most-recorded Latin percussionists of his generation, steps out with his third session as leader on his own label.  Having grown up in Spanish Harlem of Puerto Rican parents, he regularly heard the music of such greats as Machito, Willie Bobo, Tito Puente, Steve Berrios, Carlos “Patato” Valdez, and Ray Barretto.  And it takes someone so steeped in authentic Latin jazz to produce a record such as El Mas Alla (Beyond)—so full of buoyant exuberance and joie de vivre.

The music veritably bursts from the speakers, casting a spell of joyous celebration.  Definitely a party disc of the first water, it’s much more than that.  A close listen reveals intricate rhythmic and harmonic conceptions elegantly executed.  Special note should be taken of Bryan Carrott, a first-rate vibes player who lends huge jazz creds to this session, of Craig Rivers, a top-notch jazz flutist who flies under the radar, and of Ruben Rodriguez, an electric bass guitarist of uncommon taste who is probably the unsung hero of this recording.  The leader, a master of a huge variety of percussive instruments, lays down such an infectious vibe as to charm the pants off the most skeptical listener.

The guests, especially Regina Carter adding her string magic to the Stevie Wonder medley “Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You,” simply burnish the already sparkling goings-on.  Steve Wilson’s masterful soprano sax solo on perhaps the most attractive number, “Don Ramon,” reminds us that some very accomplished jazzers sometimes never receive their due.  Freddie Cole’s rich vocal on “I Wish You Love” provides an unexpectedly pleasant change of pace.  All in all, Latin jazz of very high accomplishment.

TrackList:

Bobo’s Blues
Matana
Precious One
Brazilian Sugar
I Wish You Love
Used to Be a Cha Cha
Steppin’
Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You
Don Ramon
Minha Saudade

- Jan P. Dennis




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