It's not hard to see why percussionist Steven Kroon has been hired by a wide variety of stellar talents across the musical spectrum from Aretha Franklin to Paul Butterfield to Luther Vandross to Ron Carter to Gary Bartz and many more: the guy understands percussion and rhythm to a 'T'. Every cut here has a compelling understructure based in drums and percussion instruments (congas, etc.) interacting with cybernetic hedonism. His choice of Vince Cherico on the drum kit was a signal for the perfection Kroon always looks to: both act as though a Hindu deity with myriad hands on one body. Then the bass player, Ruben Rodriguez, is only inches above them with a non-stop pulse reaching into blood and bones. I've been critical lately about bass guitars being much too scamped in too many jazz recordings, so if you'd care to see how it's done right (thanks to engineer Randy Crafton and a mix/mastering job at Park West Studios), jump into any cut here. Lord, but Rodriguez's work fattens things out to the horizons!
Then you get sax, flute, vibes, and keyboards for a lush tropic sound based in multiple modes: cha cha, mambo, bomba, etc. Everything here is bright and invigorating, Phantom of the Islands particularly fetching, up until the ballad staple As Time Goes By (the Casablanca-based chestnut), when the vibes step out front and everyone lays back for a bit of dreaminess. Dusk Til Dawn picks matters right back up, and it's time to dance and drink, piano and flute escorting you across the dance floor to the bartender, and then back out under the mirror ball.
My favorite cut, though, is the take on George Cables' Camel Rise, a swirling and jaunty but always well contained panorama of chops and atmospherics, Rodriguez providing colorful and irresistible sets of waves and undulations propelling the ensemble forward, everyone sparkling and zesty while cool and collected. Think of the band as one cemented in the kind of percussive excellences shown by Nana Vasconcelos, Colin Walcott, Trilok Gurtu, Alex Acuna, Armando Peraza and all the Santana skinspounders, and you'll understand how well the latinate and lightly fusionistic mode is urged on to a very satisfying fiesta of interactive superior musicianship…but don't forget the arrangers either (keyboardist Igor Atalita, vibes player Bryan Carrott, and four non-members), as all found a harmonic meeting ground forwarding Kroon's ideal.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles