Rob Luft ‘Life Is The Dancer’ LP/CD (Edition) 5/5

It seems to me that UK guitarist and composer Rob Luft just has too many amazing ideas to fit into one album. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting guitarists to have entered my consciousness in the last 30 plus years, his unerring knack of making wonderful music seems to be becoming a very positive habit; music to my ears. Ah, but I get ahead of myself… For those of you not yet familiar with his name, you will be. “Life is the dancer” is the London based guitarist’s 2nd release, following up on his wonderful 2017 debut “Riser”. In between that and this came the excellent “Monk and Trane” album (and lengthy tour) with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, an exercise in formidable jazz technique perhaps, but another little gem none-the-less. Luft’s music, both on “Riser” and on this new release, traverses any pre-conceived ideas of genre, a little like Pat Metheny, in that Luft is a true original, his writing, arrangements and performances sounding so natural and organic that one gets the distinct impression he could turn his hand to any style of musical persuasion and it would still be instinctively him.

One thing that comes across loud and clear in Luft’s recordings is an unfettered joy of making music. Combined with an obvious humility and genuine warmth, these attributes just add to the overwhelming free-flowing creativity in his music. Luft makes original music the way he hears it, with band members happy to interpret it. Contributions come from Joe Wright on tenor sax, Joe Webb on Hammond organ and piano, Tom McCredie on bass, and Corrie Dick on drums, with cameos from trumpeter Byron Wallen and vocalist Luna Cohen. The open, intuitive feel and interplay between all of the musicians is a testament to the maturity of Luft’s writing and direction, making for a lovely atmosphere throughout the whole of the session.

The title “Life is the dancer” references the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle: ‘Life Is The Dancer and you are the Dance’, that is to say, you don’t live your life but life lives you. As Luft explains; ‘I think that idea is a beautiful sentiment and I think the album title of ‘Life Is The Dancer’ suits my record, as the new compositions have something very bright, positive and dance-like in them. This warmth & energy is what I want people to feel when they listen to my music. The message is essentially: the past is in your head and the present is in your hands”.

Not only is Luft one of the most inventive musicians around at the moment, but he has soul. For example, on the incredible closing track of this album “Expect The Unexpected”, all the aspects of his writing, arranging and performance are skillfully rolled into one dynamic and emotive piece of music. A uniquely beautiful atmosphere is created, leaving me quite simply breathless. There’s a vibrant, spirited feel to the entire recording, with the opener “Berlin” wowing the listener with its expressive, uplifting adventure; a kind of Metheny-esque “Are you going with me” for the modern era. The title track itself has echoes of a young Andy Sheppard, with its catchy, joyous Caribbean flavours at the heart of its composition. “All Ways Moving” is a gentle piece that could easily have come from the Bill Frisell songbook in his early ECM days. There’s more than meets the eye to a lot of the tunes here, with some awesome soloing, and not just from Luft himself. Saxophonist Joe Wright sparkles on tunes such as “One Day In Romentino” and “Snow Country”, bringing a freshness and added colour to the vibrant pictures of sound being painted. The outstanding “Sad Stars”, along with the beguiling “Tanpura” and “Other Wise” are short stories set within a larger adventure, wonderful pastiches of sound, elegant and mouth-watering in turn. As with much of Luft’s music, there’s no time to dwell, with innovative ideas and nuances changing the path of a tune with consummate skill and ease, the divine “Synesthesia” adding yet another path to the guitarist’s ever-enriching journey.

“Life is the dancer” will be one of the major European jazz releases of 2020. Rob Luft has a rare gift; he epitomises what it means to bring joy to life through music, something we all need in these difficult and unprecedented times.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Rob Luft ‘Riser’ CD (Edition) 5/5