Rising Son makes for the perfect title for the Blue Note debut from Takuya Kuroda, an ascendant trumpeter and composer who is perhaps best known for his inspired presence in vocalist José James’ band over the past several years. In fact, Rising Son finds Kuroda stepping forth to helm James’ remarkable band – featuring keyboardist Kris Bowers, electric bassist Solomon Dorsey, drummer Nate Smith, and trombonist Corey King – with James in the producer’s chair instead of behind the microphone (excepting a hypnotic version of the Roy Ayers classic “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” to which James lends vocals).
In addition to anchoring James’ horn section, the 33-year-old Japanese-born, Brooklyn-based musician has been leading his own bands and has self-released and self-produced three previous albums. While touring with James in support of the singer’s Blue Note debut No Beginning No End, he let James listen to some of his newer material. James enjoyed it but wanted to hear more of Kuroda’s playing and so the idea developed to have James produce the next album. James also encouraged Kuroda to accentuate more of hip-hop and R&B. “José said ‘Make sure you have something in the music that makes people bob their heads,’” Kuroda recalls.
Afrobeat rhythms play a crucial role throughout Rising Son. They reflect Kuroda’s six-year participation in the New York-based Afrobeat ensemble, Akoya. Afrobeat’s entrancing shuffle propels the tantalizing “Afro Blues” on which Kuroda’s spiky trumpet melody with urban swagger evokes Lee Morgan, one of Kuroda’s significant influences along with Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke contributes a bluesy yet percussive solo and accompaniment that reinforce the composition’s Motherland pulse.
With his close association with James, Kuroda is primed to become a major voice on the 21st century modern jazz-funk scene with Rising Son signaling a new dawn.
Kuroda eventually came to the U.S. where at the Berklee College of Music he had his first formal jazz studies. I never had a jazz music teacher in Japan. I took my first music theory, ear training and jazz ensemble classes for the first time in my life in English, which made it even crazier, he says, But that made me want to come to New York.