Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
If jazz music in general has a small, but passionate audience, then Latin jazz has an even smaller one. But they’re no less passionate about the music, its history or its practitioners.
Congero and percussionist Steven Kroon has been on the music scene for more than two-dozen years, backing the likes of superstars Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall, Kenny G, Bette Midler and, for over two decades, Luther Vandross.
But this time out, Kroon was the bandleader, and he was anchoring his own Latin jazz sextet in concert at Union College’s comfortable and cozy Emerson Auditorium in Schenectady.
Sitting behind several conga drums and a vast array of various percussive instruments scattered on the floor around his feet, Kroon and his crack ensemble shot out of the starting gate with two dynamic sets filled with break-neck rhythms, explosive beats and some sultry melodic interludes.
Pianist Igor Atalita’s fingers danced on the eighty-eights, laying down rhythmic lines or trading solos with vibes maestro Bryan Carrott or sax ‘n’ flute maven Craig Rivers.
The bottom end throbbed dynamically with each composition as electric bassist Ruben Rodriguez and drummer Diego Lopez percolated near boiling point behind the band.
Playing mostly his own material, drawn from his discography – including tunes from “In My Path,” “Senor Kroon” and his latest outing, “Without a Doubt” – Kroon was in his element and at his very best coaxing brilliant percussive sounds from his congas all the way from the beginning to the last notes of the encore.
The nearly capacity crowd was on its feet wildly cheering and applauding while Kroon and his sextet took their final bows. The musicians and the audience both knew that something inspired and magical had just happened.
Celebrating their fifth year, Jazz/Latino, Inc. will be concluding their Ahora, Latin/Jazz Concert Series with the double grand-piano onslaught of Rebecca Cline and Nicki Denner’s performance, “The Caribbean Side of Thelonious Monk,” on May 26 at Union College’s Emerson Auditorium in Schenectady. Tix are $15; seniors $5.
Rudy Lu’s photographs at Albany Jazz