Rising Son, Takuya Kuroda (Blue Note, 2014)

Sometimes that entire fusion thing can be close to unbearable to listen to; I have memories of watching a group here in Paris that was made up of super-enthusiastic types playing a 'musical mix' inspired by Af-ri-ka and felt so tired just watching them and their high energy antics (so left early). The trick, I think, is to underplay the influences, keep it low-key: serve it cold.

In this sense, this debut offering from Kuroda works beautifully. The first three tracks on this 2014 album are some of the best jazz, influenced by other genres, that I have heard for a long while. The first track - the title of the record, 'Rising Son' in particular hooked me as soon as I heard it, mainly because of the pretty strange, in some ways, production/recording. It seems as if the bass is brought forward so much it almost slips into distortion, it's a heavy and excessive sound that overpowers the rest, keeping the trumpet quiet, almost forgotten. I find this surprising and fresh. Similarly, the plastic-fantastic start is lovely and the stumbling, falling over your feet beat is nice too.

The next two tracks show their influences more clearly, but still with a kind of graceful gentleness that works. Interestingly, Kuroda cites Lee Morgan as a key influence on his latest record, Zigzagger (released in October this year), an artist I've been discovering and rediscovering a lot recently, for his ability to pre-empt new directions, in an under-stated way. There is a similar modesty in the approach of Kuroda, which is welcome.

A description of Kuroda's approach, influences, with reference to his most recent record from his website :

Whether moving from Japan to the U.S. or navigating between the influences of jazz, soul, hip-hop, Afrobeat and electronica, trumpeter/composer Takuya Kuroda has never followed a straight path. On his fifth studio album and Concord Records debut, the aptly named Zigzagger, Kuroda darts between those wide-ranging interests with a funky swagger and an intensely swinging vigor. The deeply infectious album, due out October 7, 2016, finds the trumpeter snaking his way around the opposing poles of acoustic and electric, bristling grooves and blissed-out vibes, punchy brass and fluid synths, carving his own distinctive sonic path along the way.

“Life is sometimes not that easy, sometimes not so difficult, and it should never go straight,” Kuroda says. “It’s always zigzagging. So I put my soul and spirit into that word.

Here's a taste of a track from Kuroda's most recent record ...