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Steve Kroon

Talking to Steve Kroon about his career is like getting a unique history lesson, an insider's perspective on the way musical history would be written if it were written by musicians: Places and times where paychecks and reputations and discographies and everything else fell away before the pure joy of making music with the best. Tales of clubs that exist only in memory where once upon a time a legends sat in. Or an all night jam so incandescent it was like staring too long at the sun.

He remembers Tommy Lopez, a wonderful teacher and player who worked with seminal jazz artists such as Nat Cole, Miriam Makeba, and Harry Belafonte, taking him uptown to a club in Harlem in the 70's. The kind of place where you had to knock on the door and be known, or be with someone who was, to get in:

"The night I went with Tommy was so beautiful because there was; rumberos and rumberos, I mean, so many of the cats were there. The place was on fire, man. I mean, your hair was like standing up on end."

>Born in Harlem, growing up in Brooklyn and Queens. Listening and learning. Meeting and becoming friends with other young players like Steve Thornton.

"Steve and I went through a lot of good times. We actually started when the first crew of Brazilians came over. There was Portinho, Salvador, Claudio Roditi, Sivuca , Dom Um Romeo. There was a group and Steve and I were doing a lot of playing, a lot of Carnivals with them. I guess that was `73 or `74, and we've been friends ever since."

>A list of the people with whom Steve Kroon has worked reads like a Who's Who of modern jazz. Paulinho Da Costa, Ron Powell, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Dom Salvador, Ralph MacDonald, to name just a few. He recently returned (August, 1999) from Japan where he was touring with Ron Carter. He also did a week in August at the Vanguard in New York with a group featuring Lewis Nash on drums, Steven Scott on piano, Peter Washington on bass, Regina Carter on violin, Steve Nelson on vibes, and the brilliant young saxophonist, Benny Carter. And for a little variety, he's doing the music for "Hoop Dreams" the popular new series on Showtime.

The most exciting thing happening for Steve right now is the imminent release of his first solo project, a CD titled In My Path.

" It's kind of structured around all the facets of music I enjoy: Latin jazz, African and world type stuff, some sambas, some Brazilian type things, some ballads, and some Afro-Cuban things. I co-wrote 6 of the tunes with Ivan Hamden, a drummer and good friend of mine. And I got two songs from Dom Salvadoróhe wrote me a beautiful samba. So what we did was use different treatments and different people. On the Brazilian stuff we used Portinho on drums, Sergio Brandao bass, Bob Franceschini did all the saxophone work, Ray Vega on trumpet, and on trombone, Lewis Kahn, a really great player.

Steve Kroon at the LP® photo studio playing the Galaxy fiberglass congas along with the typical setup he uses when working with artists such as Luther Vandross, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash.

Then on the Latin jazz stuff I had Oscar Hernandez do an arrangement for me of Sun Goddess which has him and Ruben Rodriguez on it, and Ray Vega, and Mauricio (Smith) and Bob Franceschini, and myself, and Phil Hamilton. And then Mauricio did an arrangement for me, a Latin jazz version of Mas Quenada. And that had the same band. And then I have another Latin jazz number with a little softer Caribbean flavor, which I have Jon Lucien singing. And it's beautiful, just beautiful.

I got Ron (Carter) playing on a couple of tunes. Paulette McWilliams did a ballad for me. And Lisa Fisher did a lot of background vocals. Then I got two tunes with David Sanchez on them and they came out great. It's a very all-star cast, and I got a lot of faith and love from a lot of people on this recording-I'm very blessed.

It's surprisingly ambitious for a first solo project-something Steve is well aware of.

"You know, it's very hard to put out a record as a percussionist. It's easier usually for say, a horn player. The one guy, aside from Tito Puente or Mongo (Santamaria) who did a fine job of crossing over was Ralph MacDonald. They don't really know how to deal with us (percussionists) as leaders, or who's the front man or whatever. They have a hard time with that.

We hear things different than other musicians too. We want to hear 6/8, we want to play a samba, we want to play different things of the moment and not just one sound all the time, because it's the rhythm we love. But I'm also very conscious of the song and how it's received. As I said, I also write music and lyrics, so I'm very conscious of the whole process. So trying to do that is harder but it can also be very rewarding especially in the long run, you have more longevity. You know, percussionists and drummers do have great ideas."

No one who's heard Steve Kroon play or listened to the music he writes would argue with that.

All quotes taken from an interview with Martin Cohen on August 4th, 1999 for MPR (Martin's Percussion Radio).

To learn more about Steve Kroon, CLICK HERE.

Visit the official website of Steve Kroon.

 

Steve Kroon and Lewis Nash at New York City's Village Vanguard on August 10, 1999. Steve was performing with Lewis' band. Lewis is one of the finest drummers I have ever heard.