the genre – jazz-funk – has become a cliché.
The ear wearies from tiresome repetitions of an unvarying harmonic
spin-doctored into formulaic permutations of a broken chord masquerading
as composition; textures mined from a glitzy catalogue of synthesized
sounds produced not by the beating heart but the pressing of a
button or click of the mouse. To that add the all too familiar
Richter-scale-friendly, thumb-whacked bass line and decibel defying
percussion, to the sorry effect that the erstwhile golden genre
has been transmuted into a base-metallica retirement home for
musicians who have run out of ideas.
someone takes the dare and enters not forbidden but all too familiar
territory and makes you take another look, another listen, and
even catches your fancy and excites your interest in a music that
you have already written off, consigned to the “heard that,
been there” category, the musician that makes it all happen
will doubtlessly be worth pointing out and even singing the praises
of -- for resuscitating a music long dead and buried.
born, New York based trumpeter Takuya Kuroda is winning over audiences
with his foot-tapping, highly original, deeply felt jazz-funk
or funky jazz depending on the track. He unleashed his arsenal
of uniquely mixed sound to a full house at Club l’Astral
during the 2016
Montreal International Jazz Festival --- and you
can be sure he’ll be back.
of fact he played later in the week with Jose James, in a tribute
to Chet Baker. And while Baker’s music calls for saying
more by playing less, a template that Kuroda was not able to abide
by, the intrepid trumpeter showed a different aspect of his playing
by layering the Chet sound with mostly beep-bop sequences, some
of which worked and some of which didn’t, as was the case
with James’ bold and beautiful reinvention of "My Funny
Valentine." At a very minimum, the evening showcased Kuroda’s
versatility and ability to quickly pick up on and adjust to what
develops on the spur of the moment, in real time, especially in
the context of aleatoric composition, now favoured by the present
wave of upstarts and aging millennials, such as Vijay Iyer
say that we share 96% of the same genes with chimps, but of course
(notwithstanding our public servants who haven’t figured
out how to synchronize traffic lights) it is that 4% that makes
all the difference. The same could be said for Kuroda’s
sound and take on funky jazz. In many ways it sounds very conventional,
something we initially think we’ve heard before, but on
closer inspection there are decisive conceptual divergences that
make his music deceptively distinct and engaging.
of the floor-vibrating, thumping bass, the agile Rashaan Carter
makes his instrument grunt or groan, and even burp; it’s
right out of the belly of the beast, a wholesomely organic sound
that grabs the listener both physically and metaphysically. The
same for the keyboardist Takeshi Ohbayashi, who in his own low-keyed
manner is very much responsible for the group’s signature
by providing a kind of indigo blue counterpart. He forgoes the
electro-funky sound for an ethereal, misty groove that reduces
the blast furnace effect, rounds the pounding and gently contours
the music’s harsh edges. His vision (and invention that
has a fourth dimension feel to it), functions as a counterstatement
of intent, even revolt against the relentless gutturals that had
the audience nearly on its feet, a feat in itself considering
that it’s jazz.
this oddly constructed rhythm section, its commingling of fury
and suppleness, the solos somehow floated their way into the mind
and easily won over the ears of the undecided. Both Kuroda on
trumpet and Craig Hill on tenor spit out their notes in flurries,
like sparks in the night, but the stormy weather is no match for
the melodies they produce. Kuroda just doesn’t blow notes
that fit the scale but tells a story which he methodically develops
and then brings to completion.
of composition Kuroda is at his most interesting and best when
he’s developing ideas that are not anchored to a fixed harmonic.
In this respect, I look forward to considerable improvement from
a young musician who is already into the next phase of his development,
whose compositional abilities will soon rival his musicianship.
His sense of timing, spacing and emergent interval are already
the success of his debut album, Rising Sun, his second
album, Zigzagger, is now available. Takuya Kuroda is
an exciting new discovery who brings fresh insight into a worn
genre and at the same time, via the funk and soul train, eases
the crossing over into the heartland of mainstream jazz.