Jazz/Funk Trumpeter Takuya Kuroda Delivers in Various Configurations on ‘Fly Moon Die Soon’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Highly respected and prolific Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda blends soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion, and hip-hop music into his sound, making him a contemporary force. His latest, Fly Moon Die Soon, a debut for First Word Records, consists of nine tracks, from four to six minutes in length generally, played by various configurations ranging from quintets to decets. The up-tempo jazz-funk of “ABC” and “Moody” sit alongside soulful jazz cuts like “Fade” and “Change,” also featuring Corey King on vocals. The title track is a downtempo groove lead by a heavy Moog bassline, while “Do No Why” contains an infectious piano riff throughout. Aside from Takuya’s original compositions, he revisits two classics from Ohio Players (“Sweet Sticky Thing” featuring Alina Engibaryan on vocals) and Herbie Hancock (“Tell Me A Bedtime Story”) while the album closes with “TKBK.”

This is Kuroda’s sixth album within a ten-year period.  He talks about the album as a cross between the greatness of nature and the “beautiful obsceneness “of humanity – a mix of spiritual and filthy grooves. It took two years to complete the album, that had its origins in a studio Kuroda bought in Brooklyn.  He started to fool around with multiple instruments, adding to some tracks he had been building at home, alongside engineer Todd Carter.  The foundation was the beats that he had built at home. He then began to invite musicians in one by one to blend an organic sound to this slickly produced foundation. In addition to trumpet and flugelhorn Kuroda on select tracks palsy Moog bass, keyboards and beats. Joining him on most tracks are Corey King (vocals, trombone), Craig Hill (tenor saxophone) Takeshi Ohbayashi (keyboards), Rashaan Carter (bass), and Adam Jackson (drums), although the personnel changes by selection. For example, Kuroda says this about the single, “Fade” – “Fade is the first song I made for this album, 70% of it was made by me and then I started inviting musicians in one by one to finish it.  That blend of the digital comes through clearly, but the funky hip-hop moments sit beside some truly gorgeous passages, especially Kuroda’s flugelhorn on the Hancock piece.

Kuroda first came to prominence working with the vocalist José James, with whom he worked on the ‘Blackmagic‘ and ‘No Beginning No End‘ projects. This was shortly after his relocation to to New York to study jazz & contemporary music at The New School in Union Square. Following graduation, Takuya established himself further in the NYC jazz scene, performing with the likes of Akoya Afrobeat and in recent years with DJ Premier‘s BADDER band (also including acclaimed bass player, Brady Watt). In terms of his albums as a leader, his 2011 debut Edge was followed by Bitter and High in 2012 and Six Aces in 2013. Takuya was signed to the legendary Blue Note Records in 2014 for his album Rising Son, as well as appearing on their 2019 cover versions project, Blue Note Voyage. He released his fifth album Zigzagger on Concord in 2016, which also featured Antibalas on a reimagining of the Donald Byrd classic Think Twice.

This is how contemporary jazz sounds, East-coast style, in the hands of one of today’s rising jazz stars.

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