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 [English Translation]

Takuya Kuroda’s Rising Son
Interviewed and written by Masaaki Hara

©Hiroyuki Seo

The spreading map of New York’s new-generation jazz – The first Japanese artist signed with Blue Note

“When I entered junior high school, the school’s big band pushed me into playing the trumpet. Even though it was a sudden invite, I fell in love with the instrument the moment I struck a sound. Since then, there hasn’t been a day I didn’t set my hands on the instrument.”

Born in 1980, Takuya Kuroda has been leading a life obsessed with jazz ever since that day. "To me, I knew it was the coolest thing without a doubt", says this new-generation trumpeter with absolute certainty who very rightly relocated to NY and advanced his studies at The New School, joining star quality fellow musicians including the likes of Robert Glasper.

“The homelike atmosphere was fabulous already, but what I really loved was the nightly jam sessions by fellows around my age or perhaps younger, – that was very inspiring. They were all there at The New School then, – Glasper, Jose (James), Jamire (Williams) and many more of those out there in the field today” recalls Kuroda.

And that’s how Kuroda stepped foot and immersed himself in NY’s most exciting post-2000 jazz scene. After graduating university, Kuroda stayed in NY, performed in his own band and released 3 albums, fully produced by himself. That’s when a major turning point came around. Playing together with Jose at an on-campus recital brought the two close to each other, and eventually Kuroda found himself participating in the album Blackmagic that Jose was working on then. “We gained our mutual respect through the exchanges over our thoughts on how things should be on the album, and ever since, whenever there’s something happening in NY, he gives me a call.”

Jose then introduces Kuroda to Blue Note, resulting in the decision to produce Kuroda’s album with Jose as the producer, supported by the excellent backings from Jose’s band with Nate Smith on drums, Solomon Dorsey on bass, Kris Bowers on the piano and Corey King on the trombone.

“Jose seemed to have this concept of a modern version of a soul-jazz piece from the 70s with heavily low beats of hip-hop or R&B throughout the album. My track-making was based on that concept.”

Admittedly, the album sure does have an oozing flow of afrobeats, something different from Kuroda’s past works that were based more on straightforward jazz. Still, his trumpet delivers a strikingly new vibrancy in this new sound set. “I was already aware from the previous album that I was working in a totally new generation of jazz” explains Kuroda. Indeed, the colorful vividness unleashed in that ‘previous’ album, Takuya Kuroda Sextet’s “Six Aces”, has been brought to a totally new level, renewing the impression that one may have had hearing his past works.

His final comments on his impression on Blue Note represent his confidence and strong sense of commitment towards working with the label.

Takuya Kuroda Rising Son Blue Note/Universal(2014)

“I have utmost respect to their policy of letting me fully compete with my own original works. Also they don’t have this button-downed ‘make sure to include jazz standards’ or ‘let’s make Christmas songs because it’s Christmas’ tacks that are so typical to jazz labels, and this kind of broad-minded musical capacity, I admire truly and am excited and determined to meet their expectations."”