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On his seventh album, Midnight Crisp, Japanese trumpet alchemist Takuya Kuroda continues to effortlessly meld post-bop with hip-hop, funk, neo soul, electronica, Afrobeat and fusion to arrive at a sublime place of his creation. The trumpeter is accompanied by kindred spirits — trombonist Corey King, saxophonist Craig Hill, keyboardist Takahiro Izumikawa, drummer Adam Jackson, bassist Rashaan Carter and percussionist Keita Ogawa — as he evokes the exhilarating promise of the night.
Midnight Crisp is suspended between nostalgia and a longing for a future sound. Tracks like the cosmic “Time Coil,” featuring an insane trumpet solo by the leader, and the contemplative, neo soul-tinged “Old Picture,” are crafted on rich harmonies that suggest throwback vibes from another era mixed with electronic sounds that conjure space-age futurism.
Nocturnal city streets where people gather — and darker ones to which others retreat — are palpable in tracks such as the dance-inducing title track. Unfolding with breezy aplomb, even as it’s underpinned by a deep groove and a thumping rhythm, it crackles with anticipation. The mellow, mid-tempo cadence of “It’s OK” provides a soul jazz canvas for Kuroda to sketch on, while the dark, ruminating brass of “Dead End Dance,” goaded by an ominous bass line, is both distressing and deeply satisfying.
Kuroda injects coolness into every track, but he does so with unassuming confidence and down-to-earth joy. Maybe it’s the humility in knowing that he’s the latest in a line of distinguished trumpet players who hail from Kobe (Ryo Fukui, Koichi Matsukaze, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Masabum Kikuchi). Or maybe it’s a quiet belief in his alluring sound. On closer “Choy Soda,” a fuzzy synth bass riff collides with shimmering keys as trombonist King’s smoky vocals contrast Kuroda’s spirited trumpet wails. Punctuated by Jackson’s kinetic drumming and Ryo Ogihara’s funk guitar, the track heads to an explosive horn crescendo before coming to an abrupt end. Kuroda tries hard to keep it low-key, but his is still the coolest party on the block and everyone’s invited. — Lissette Corsa