Despite stooping to the occasional Muzak-like whitewash, percussionist Steven Kroon's "In My Path" is a smooth set of Latin inflected pastiches. Musically, Kroon builds his compositions in layers with the rhythmic ease of the best samba and the spacious groove of a Caribbean breeze. A Harlem native of Puerto Rican descent, Kroon put the bounce in much of Luther Vandross' music and is a veteran of Ron Carter's groups as well as those of both Aretha Franklin and Stanley Turrentine. You can see where this is going and throughout his debut as a leader, Kroon burns the rhythmic candle at both the R&B and jazz ends. When he succeeds, Kroon's tunes capture that inevitable grace of the best soul and the charm of the Latin groove. That groove wears best on a straight ahead salsa take on Jorge Ben's "Mais Que Nada" and a percolating original by pianist Dom Salvador called "Samba Pra Min". Here the percussion prods and the horns pop, pushing the bright tones along. On the latter the horns dance a challenging three way samba, trading fours then uniting for the theme. The disc faulters in a few spots because of the banality of the lyrics. Kroon is a Ph.D. calibre musician, but an undergrad lyricist. This is most evident on the saccharine "The Wind" with such a redundant lyrical circle of: "Love is like the wind/and when it blows within/it fills your heart and soul with love" that even Jon Lucien's smooth baritone can't save it. "Your Smile" is more of the same but this time with Vandross alum Paulette McWilliams floundering through the verses. "Mandela Smiles" is saved by such an infectious groove and ebullient David Sanchez sax solo that you overlook the history reduced to Pepsi soundbite of the refrain: "Oh Mandela, give the world a great big smile." The disc finishes strong with the title ensemble cut (another bouncing Salvador original) and a fascinating percussion-bass duet with his bossman Carter. And as if as a pointed reminder of what he's all about, Kroon ends the disc as he started - with the brief percussion solo "Bridges". He should heed his own call and always let his hands do the talking.