Rob Luft – ‘Riser’ reviewed

Riser Rob Luft.jpgRob Luft is one of those rare musicians who has seldom put a career foot wrong, first coming to attention at the age of fifteen in the (UK) National Youth Jazz Orchestra. From then on he has regularly come to notice and although still in his early twenties he is now a musical force to be reckoned with. Anyone who has heard him play will know that the growing number of accolades are well deserved. As each year passes he garners fresh awards, last year, second place in the Montreux Jazz guitar competition and recently receiving the coveted Kenny Wheeler Award.

A little over a month ago, Luft released ‘Riser’ and it is hard to believe that this is a debut album. While incorporating a variety of Jazz guitar styles it is definitely forward-looking. Like many post-millennial improvisers, Luft reaches across styles and genres with ease. Mike Moreno and John McLaughlin are obvious reference points, but the album moves beyond such comparisons. His innate skills and good taste have enabled him to craft beautiful charts and out of this comes a unique sound. The first number of the album,’Night Songs’, is a cornucopia of wonders, a lesson in virtuosity, a seamless but ever-shifting voice of the London streets. The organ adding warmth, the rest of the band texture and heart, and Luft soaring above like a patrolling night-hawk. ‘Slow Potion’ has a dreamy surf guitar vibe, other tracks bubble with street life (Jamaican and African influences in evidence), while ‘Riser’ and ‘Different colours of silence’ invoke the more ambient hued Nordic Jazz. While the influences are varied the album has a strong cohesive feel, nothing is out-of-place here. Luft’s project has also benefited from his choice of band mates and from deft hands in the studio and the mastering. When he played in New Zealand last year, he wowed the audiences. Rumour has it that he will return next year. For updates keep an eye on CJC Creative Jazz Club or Wellington Jazz Cooperative.

The artists: Rob Luft (guitars, compositions), Joe Wright (tenor saxophone), Joe Web (Hammond organ, piano, harmonium), Tom McCredie (bass), Corrie Dick (drums).

To sample or purchase the album visit Bandcamp  or Google Edition Records Ltd UK.

Larry Koonse; Jazz Guitarist

Larry Koonse may be one of the nicest guys in Jazz but he is a killer guitarist.   He has recorded under his own name and toured or recorded extensively with such famous artists such as Bob Brookmeyer, Karrin Allyson, Mel Torme,  Joe La Barbera, Billy Childs, Terry Gibbs, Warne Marsh, Johnny Dankworth, Jimmy Rowles, Alan Broadbent, Charlie Haden, Toots Thielmans and many others.   At the invitation of Nelson Mandela and UNICEF he was once asked to perform in South Africa.   He has been the featured soloist with the LA Philharmonic plus other orchestras and has performed in Carnegie Hall.   He sometimes performs with his father Dave Koonse (who is also a jazz guitarist, having played at the ‘Lighthouse’ with John Grass).  Larry is a well seasoned and gifted musician and he is always a joy to listen to.

I first saw Larry perform when he came to New Zealand with Joe La Barbera and Tom Warrington.  It was Kiwi big band leader Roger Fox who had organised for the trio to come out here and many were grateful that he did.   Larry’s guitar playing captivated me throughout the concert and I marveled at how the Tom Warrington trio’s “You must believe in Spring’ could somehow reverence Bill Evens and Lennie Tristano at the same time.   Larry’s cool-style is perfectly balanced by the warm tones that he elicits from his guitar and in his playing you can hear hints of Johnny Smith, and even Bill Bauer.  I loved every note of it.

After the concert some of the band came out to mingle with the crowd and I got to speak to Larry about his music.  Joe La Barbera was there as well, chatting and signing CD covers .  Larry is a very friendly guy and we have met once since then and exchanged emails.   Making contact with world class musicians in clubs or after concerts is one of the great joys of being a jazz fan and I often wonder if that chance exists in any other musical genre.

I have many recordings featuring Larry and in each of them I hear new subtleties.  Sometimes his long lines are unmistakably of the Tristano school (especially in his co-led LA Jazz Quartet),but with the Tom Worrington trio he can sound closer to the style of Herb Ellis or Johnny Smith.   The best place to purchase Larry’s music is from the ‘Jazz Compass’ label online.   Alternately go to his next gig and purchase the music there.    He tells me that he will probably be in in New Zealand in Late May 2011 and I will certainly keep you posted on that.

The clip has Bruce Forman on the left and Larry Koonse on the right as you face the screen.