Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 15, No.6, 2016

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Becky Noble
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
Jaga Jazzist
Cline & Lage
Fred Hersch
Gregory Porter

2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)

Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: TAKUYA KURODA



Even 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.

So when 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.

Japanese 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.

In point 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

They 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.

Instead 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.

Out of 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.

In terms 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 noteworthy.

Following 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.




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