Rob Luft-Life Is The Dancer.

Label: Edition Records.

When Rob Luft released his debut album Riser in July 2017, it was to widespread critical acclaim, with some critics drawing comparisons to such jazz luminaries as Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny. This was high praise indeed for the twenty-three year old bandleader, composer, producer and guitarist from London. He had come a long way since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, and winning the prestigious Kenny Wheeler Music Prize. Many critics wondered how what was next from Rob Luft, and how he would followup Riser? 

Just under three years later, Rob Luft returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Life Is The Dancer. Just like his debut album Riser, it was released by Edition Records and showcases the considerable talents of one of the rising stars of jazz who has a bright future ahead of him.

Rob Luft was born on the ‘27th’ of November 1993, in Sidcup, in south-east London. Growing up, he attended The Judd School, in Tonbridge, Kent, and while a pupil, joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in 2010 and was a member until 2015. During his time with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra Rob Luft made his recording debut on their 2012 album The Change and Fifty released in 2015. It was one of five albums he played on during that year.

During 2015, Rob Luft also played on Patrick Hayes’ Back To The Grove; Enzo Zirilli’s ZiroBop; Liane Carroll’s and Seaside. He was also one of the co-leaders of the Deco Ensemble when they self-released their Encuentro album. This was all good experience for one of British’s jazz’s rising stars.

In 2016, Rob Luft entered the guitar competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which was judged by legendary jazz guitarist John McLaughlin. When the results were announced twenty-two year old Rob Luft had come a very credible second. This introduced the young guitarist to a wider audience, and they would be hearing a lot more of him in the next year.

Rob Luft continued to work as sideman, and in 2016 played on Luna Cohen’s album November Sky. However, 2017 was the busiest year of his short career.

During 2017, Rob Luft was one of the co-leaders of Big Bad Wolf when they released their album Pond Life. He was also in demand as a sideman and played on Misha Mullov-Abbado’s Unquiet Quiet; Tom Ridout’s No Excuses and Joy Ellis’ Life on Land. However, the most important album of 2017 was his debut album Riser.

When Riser was released by Edition Records on the ‘28th’ of July 2017, it was to widespread critical acclaim. There were no dissenting voices amongst the critics, with some critics drawing comparisons to jazz luminaries like Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny. This was high praise indeed, but was putting pressure on the twenty-three year old bandleader, composer and guitarist. However, this didn’t faze Rob Luft whose star was in the ascendancy.

Having released his debut album in 2017, 2018 saw Rob Luft back to working as sideman. He played on three albums during 2018, Karen Lane’s Passarim; the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Sweet Sister Suite and Enzo Zirilli’s Ten To Late! This was all good experience for Rob Luft who in 2019 would record his much-anticipated sophomore album.

Before that, Rob Luft was part of Laura Jurd’s band when she recorded Stepping Back, Jumping In at The Sage Gateshead, on the ‘4th’ and ‘5th’ of March 2019. He also played on Alice Zawadzki’s album Within You Is A World Of Spring. However, the main event was the recording of his sophomore album Life Is The Dancer.

Recording of Life Is The Dancer took place at Eastcote Studios, London, on the ‘18th’ and ‘19th’ of June 2019. The Rob Luft who played guitar and took charge of production were his band. The lineup included drummer Corrie Dick, bassist Tom McCredie, tenor saxophonist Joe Wright and pianist Joe Webb who also plays Hammond organ. They were joined by guest artists Byron Wallen and Luna Cohen as they recorded ten tracks.

Eight of the tracks were composed and arranged by Rob Luft. He also joined forces with Enzo Zirilli to write  Synesthesis. The only cover version on Life Is The Dancer was the album opener Anders Christensen’s Berlin. It took just two days to record Life Is The Dancer which was scheduled for release in the spring of 2020.

Before that, Byron Wallen, who makes a guest appearance on Life Is The Dancer, released his new album Portrait in March 2020. It featured Rob Luft on guitar.

Less than a month later, on the ‘17th’ of April 2020 Life Is The Dancer was released to critical acclaim. Rob Luft was back with an album that surpassed his debut Riser, and cemented his reputation as one British jazz’s best guitarists.

The album’s title is Life Is The Dancer is part of a quote from the German-Canadian spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. That is fitting given the opening track is Berlin, which was composed by Danish bassist Anders Christensen . It’s a truly captivating track where drums pound and prove unrelenting. They’re saying we’re here to stay, and that’s the case even as Rob Luft unleashes his effect’s laden guitar and later, as Joe Webb’s shimmering piano plays. Together, they provide the amuse bouche until the main event begins at 2:20. What follows is a spellbinding guitar solo which is reminiscent in parts to Pat Metheny. Effects are deployed by the musical wizard as weaves his magic during this breathtaking call to dance. It whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of the album.

Washes of guitar open Life Is A Dancer before drums and horns combine. They’re joined by Luna Cohen whose wispy, scatted vocal adds a dreamy, pastoral sound. Later, Byron Wallen’s trumpet is played with speed, power and passion before the band kick loose and jam. Horns are to the fore before the drums and a swirling Hammond organ enjoy their moment in the sun. So do Byron Wallen’s muted trumpet and Joe Wright’s tenor saxophone. By then, the band led by Rob Luft who is an inventive guitarist, are stretching their legs before the track reaches a crescendo.

All Ways Moving is a slow, understated and pensive sounding track. Tanpura and Other Wise are both shorter tracks,  and like Bad Stars have a thoughtful and ruminative sound that invites reflection. These tracks show a different side to Rob Luft and his band.

Cinematic initially describes One Day In Romentino which starts slowly with a sultry horn playing. Soon, the band move through the gears and Rob Luft is unleashing another spellbinding solo as he plays with speed, accuracy and an inventiveness. Then he lets tenor saxophonist Joe Wright take centrestage and he plays a starring role on this beautiful, uptempo track.

Another uptempo track is Synesthesia where a shimmering, weeping guitar sits below the punchy horns which are played with speed and result in quick fire changes in tempo. Not to be outdone, Joe Webb’s finger fly across the piano. Then after a couple of minutes, Rob Luft takes centrestage. He plays with speed his guitar chiming, chirping and searing, before deploying effects and producing shimmering, glistening, and echoey sounds before this memorable track dissipates after five magical minutes.

Snow Country starts off slowly meandering along before gradually the tempo builds. The tenor saxophone combines with Rob Luft’s weeping, shimmering guitar before the horn drifts high above the arrangement. It rasps before the crystalline guitar is briefly transformed by effects. This is very different to what’s gone before or what follows.All too soon after this the band are taking their on what’s one of the album’s highlights.

Closing Life Is The Dancer is Expect The Unexpected which marks the return of trumpeter Byron Wallen and vocalist . He plays slowly and vocalist Luna Cohen. The two guests artist plays their part in what’s a beautiful seven minute track that like other on the album invites contemplation and reflection.

Nearly three years after the release of his debut album Riser, Rob Luft returns with his much-anticipated and critically acclaimed sophomore album Life Is The Dancer. It features a mixture of uptempo workouts full of energy and invention tracks as slower, thoughtful sounding tracks. This talented band cope admirably with both types of tracks and are the perfect foil for Rob Luft.

He’s an inventive and innovative and guitarist who enjoys improvising and does so during Life Is The Dancer. He’s  obviously been influenced by Pat Metheny and sometimes, when he deploys his away of effects, is reminiscent of the late, great John Martyn. Rob Luft puts them to good use during the album, but doesn’t overuse them. He realises that less is more and uses effects sparingly on this genre-melting album.

Rob Luft and his band combine everything from jazz, fusion and rock to new age, psychedelia and soul-jazz during the ten tracks on Life Is The Dancer. Sometimes it’s a case of Expect The Unexpected from Rob Luft on Life Is The Dancer, where uptempo workouts rub shoulders with ruminative sounding tracks that invite the listener to reflect and contemplate against a backdrop of breathtakingly beautiful music.

Rob Luft-Life Is The Dancer.

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