REVIEW: Rob Luft - Riser album launch at King’s Place

The Riser album launch
L-R: Joe Webb, Rob Luft, Joe Wright, Tom McRedie, Corrie Dick
Photo: Anthony Ogoe

Rob Luft Riser album launch
(King’s Place. 23 September 2017. Review by Leah Williams.)

Riser is a completely apt album title given that guitarist Rob Luft is something of a young rising star himself. At only 23 years old he already has a Kenny Wheeler Music Prize and a place in the final at the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition to his name, and has appeared on stage and on recordings alongside stars - Marcus Miller for example. No surprise then that his first album was both hotly anticipated and very well received when it was officially released at the end of July. (CD REVIEW). The sold-out audience at King’s Place on Saturday was just another testament to the buzz surrounding a very promising career.

When Rob arrived on stage accompanied by the band with whom he recorded the album – bassist Tom McCredie, drummer Corrie Dick, tenor saxophonist Joe Wright and keys player Joe Webb – their youth and enjoyment of the situation was clear. In fact, they could be a group of mates who have simply gathered in their mum’s garage to jam on the weekend (the fact that one of the songs is later introduced as actually having been written by Rob, Tom and Corrie in one of their mum’s garages is a funny irony!).

It is precisely this lack of any ceremony that made the evening all the more enjoyable. When Luft took to the mic, he was entirely himself with unprepared introductions and dry humour complete. This night isn’t about looking good or pretending to be anything, it’s entirely about the music, the quality of which speaks for itself.

From the opening notes of the album’s first track Night Songs, you know you’re about to be treated to the joyous, unique sound that pervades Luft’s writing and playing. His effortless and virtuosic playing draws you in straight away and fills you with both excitement and a little bit of awe.It’s also immediately evident that this isn’t just a showcase for his own talent though; Luft’s compositions make full use of his fellow bandmates with all instruments being given ample opportunity to shine. Melodies, rhythms and solos wove seamlessly between them in complete synergy, resulting in a constantly rich and varied soundscape. Particular props did need to be given to saxophonist Joe Wright for his incredibly versatile playing throughout, which explored the whole range of the saxophone’s sound capabilities for some very impressive and special moments.

The majority of songs were naturally from the album with Rob joking “I’m afraid if you didn’t like that [opening number] then you’re going to have a terrible time,” but also included some of his own songs which aren’t on the album as well as a beautifully wistful cover of Jakob Bro’s Heroines and a cover of Bill Frisell’s Verona as an encore simply and exquisitely played as a duet with Luft and Webb on piano.

Highlights from the album’s songs included Slow Potion and Dust Settles, which were played together and complemented one another beautifully, with a natural slow build that held the entire audience captive right until the final, slowly fading notes. The title track Riser was another standout number, inspired by Luft’s love of Zimbabwean music and the way some current artists are bringing the rhythms and sounds of traditional music to contemporary pop instruments. It is an uplifting and rhythmic number that deserves its place as the title track, perfectly representing the fresh and exciting sound of the album overall.

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