A TOP 10 JAZZ RECORD OF 2014: For listeners who want to put the usual standards and post bebop swing on pause, the 33 year-old trumpeter Takuya Kuroda stands tall on his Blue Note debut, Rising Son, a polished set of jazz tunes with retro R&B riffs and de rigueur hip hop sonics. Produced by singer/songwriter José James whose own records, particularly 2013’s No Beginning, No End (Blue Note), smartly braid jazz with pop-glazed rhythm and blues, Kuroda’s album sets an after-hours party mood that starts with the rousing title track and flows throughout. Kuroda’s compositions fuse infectious urban rhythms with in the pocket Afro-centric grooves inflated by keyboardist Kris Bowers (an artist blowing up on the national scene with his Concord Jazz debut CD, Heroes + Misfits), electric bassist Solomon Dorsey, drummer Nate Smith and the satiny tones of trombonist Corey King. Kuroda and King redefine the classic two-horn frontline architecture that Blue Note built their reputation on. As a player, the trumpeter falls somewhere between Lee Morgan’s sound and Art Farmer’s supple capacity for storytelling, especially on the closing track, “Call,” an opus of sorts characterized by a classic CTI-style arrangement melded with a Prince-like jam coda.
In much the same way that Prince’s band made their own records under the Madhouse moniker and others, José James’ fingerprints the recording with first class accompaniment and he gives the trumpeter a solid gold stage for Kuroda to shine. It’s easy to be enamored with the half-steppin’ bounce that makes “Piri Piri” sound so terrific or the back-to-back re-imagination of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (with James’ behind-the-beat vocals) along with Ayers’ “Green and Gold,” featuring a super-tight, electric solo by Bowers. The eight tracks are awash with good feeling, sharp riffs and heavy beats that may send purists running, but Kuroda successfully pulls it together with his melodious trumpet and evolutionary exploration of what jazz can be. (8 tracks; 54 minutes)