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Hiroshi Kubota: I’ll Always Be

Japanese keyboardist Hiroshi Kubota (“Hiroshi K.”) has for years been an adventurous musical vanguard in his own country. Kubota’s first U.S. release, I’ll Always Be, offers a best-of selection from 12 previous Japanese releases. As a set, the album is all over the place, showing off Kubota’s eclectic tastes and imaginative spirit. The composer clearly loves stylistic contrast, playing traditional club jazz and DJ scratches against a hard-rap vocal on “Episodes,” and fronting jazzy, rolling piano with intensely shouted R&B/rap voices on “Rhythm Boxer.” The effect is often more interesting than enjoyable. The intensely over-arranged hip-hop melodrama “You Are Everything” is another oddball. Other pieces here truly fascinate, however, and show Kubota’s amazing musical dexterity. “5000 Watt Power,” for example, is a powerful soul-gospel barnburner played at a frenzied pace. Equally surprising is a hyper, pumped-up cover of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”-a truly radical remake. Yet just when you think you have Kubota figured out, he throws another curve with a straightahead piece, like the melodic, world-weary piano number “One Way Street,” or the mellow tribute suite “For Herbie.”

Originally Published