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Takuya Kuroda: Zigzagger

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Takuya Kuroda makes funky jazz for the 22nd century. The Japanese trumpeter’s multiethnic, genre-crossing music knows no bounds, bringing together elements of fusion, funk, acid jazz, electronica, neo-soul, hip-hop, Afrobeat and anything else he can think of. Zigzagger is the follow-up to his 2014 breakout on Blue Note, Rising Son, and it continues in much the same vein. Kuroda and trombonist Corey King etch memorable themes into layers of Takeshi Ohbayashi’s slippery keyboards, Rashaan Carter’s funky bass and the get-up-and-dance beats laid down by drummer Adam Jackson, after which Kuroda lets loose with fierce solos.

Kuroda’s solos aren’t the point, though. Songs like the title track and “R.S.B.D” constitute the slickest, thickest funk-jazz since Herbie Hancock’s Thrust. Fresh rhythmic textures are key in Kuroda’s music-more central than soloing-and Jackson underscores that assertion with sly, foot-dragging beats on “No Sign” and minimalist snap-crackling on “Little Words.” Ohbayashi simultaneously moves the music into the future and keeps it grounded in ’70s funk-jazz by switching between synthesizer and Fender Rhodes, using the latter to sensual effect on tunes like “Little Words” and “I Don’t Remember How It Began.” Kuroda’s futuristic, genre-blending vision gets smart assists from percussionist Keita Ogawa on a few songs and from the Afrobeat outfit Antibalas on the house-party closer, a cover of Donald Byrd’s “Think Twice.” Zigzagger offers more evidence that Kuroda’s star is rising fast.

Originally Published