After three decades of lending his remarkable percussive skills to dozens of the most popular pop music, Steve Kroon returns to the sultry Latin jazz style he grew up with, with the release of his third solo album, El Mas Alla (Beyond). The album is a refreshing and much-needed reminder of the enduring qualities of the bedrock style of Latin jazz that has captivated fans for over half a century. It's a heartfelt tribute to some of the icons of the genre whose music and friendship have been part of Kroon's artistic development since he first began to experiment with Latin percussion as a kid.
El Mas Alla is also notable for its all-star line-up of talent, its eclectic program, and its infectious sound. The top-flight band includes such in-demand talents as pianist Oscar Hernández, known for his work with salsa icon Rubén Blades and his role as leader of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and the equally renowned bassist Rubén Rodríguez and drummer Vince Cherico. The talents of woodwind artists Craig Rivers and Roger Byam meld with the golden tones of vibraphonist Bryan Carrott to produce a sound that Kroon describes as hip and easy on the ears. The session includes tunes by an amazingly diverse group of composers, from the late bassist Jaco Pastorius ("Used To Be A Cha-Cha") and Brazilian pianist João Donato ("Minha Saudade") to French composer Charles Trenet ("I Wish You Love") and Stevie Wonder ("Superwoman").
The album also provides numerous clues to the respect the leader commands among the jazz world's elite. Present for guest appearances are violinist Regina Carter, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and vocalist Freddy Cole. To put the cultural significance of El Mas Alla into perspective, Kroon enlisted the literary skills of Felipe Luciano, the highly regarded Latin jazz radio pioneer, writer and keen observer of New York City's Latin scene, to author the date's liner notes.