Steve Kroon was born in Spanish Harlem to parents who had moved to New York City from their native Puerto Rico. His surname comes from his grandfather, who immigrated to La Isla Encantada from the Dutch-speaking Caribbean island of Curaçao. At the age of nine, the family moved to Queens, where the youngster's interest in music was further sparked by the presence of many noted jazz and R&B musicians. "In my neighborhood," he recalls today, "I had Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis as a neighbor, and Lester Young was four blocks away. James Brown also lived in the area. But I came with all of my Latin roots, thanks to my father. I was fortunate in being able to hear the whole spectrum of music."
He studied Afro-Cuban percussion with Tommy Lopez, Sr. and later Brazilian rhythms with Dom Um Romão. With such a wealth of knowledge under his belt, it's not surprising that Kroon quickly became a first-call percussionist for recording sessions that required a wide range of talents.
"My time with Luther was great," Kroon says today, "but when it came time to do my own thing, I was always knew that it was going to be Latin jazz, because that's where my heart is." El Mas Alla is loaded with the kind of instantly-likeable, melodically attractive and rhythmically intriguing performances that once made Latin jazz the kind of music a diverse audience could groove to. "A lot of guys today just play too much," Kroon adds, explaining how he approaches the style reverently, with an emphasis on finesse. "It's great to have that kind of knowledge, but when you make an album, you need to remember everyone -- all kinds of listeners and dancers. If you are having people over for a barbeque, for instance, you should be able to put it on and leave it on. It fits what's going on."
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