Takuya Kuroda: Winter Jazz Fest, Jan 11

Photo by Jati Lindsay.

It’s eight on a warmish—for January—Friday night in New York City, and the line is dozens deep for a set by Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda at this year’s tenth Winter Jazz Fest.

In a short decade, the event has become a fixture of New York’s music calendar, and tonight it’s something of a coming out party for Kuroda. The Kobe-born trumpeter is not only playing the sprawling festival on a Friday night at downtown club Groove, he’s also just  launched his debut album for legendary label Blue Note.

The aptly named Rising Son ripples with the 33-year-old Kuroda’s fluid style, and classic approach to chopsmanship. Best known until now as the trumpeter with nu soul vocalist Jose James, Kuroda is influenced in equal parts by the understated cool sounds of Miles Davis, and the more athletic, upbeat tones of Clifford Brown.

Rising Son bubbles with beats from the laidback fusion of Roy Davis’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” to Afrofunk, and at Groove the band is all rhythm. While the group could showboat if it wanted to, the players remain focused on, well, the groove.

With Kuroda now on Blue Note, it’s only a matter of time before the New York-based player makes his mark on his native Japan. In the meantime, he’s boning up playing at events such as Winter Jazz Fest alongside the likes of Elliot Sharp, Vernon Reid, the Jazz Passengers, Marc Ribot and Roy Hargrove.

Metropolis, Jan 15, 2014