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Rob Luft – Cheltenham Jazz Festival – REVIEW

Rob Luft is an astonishing 24 years old. With talent beyond his years he commandeered The Daffodil for the third evening of Cheltenham Jazz Festival. His jazz is heavily influenced by African music, which brings together easy listening with infectious upbeat songs. The award winning musician has gone from creating music in his bedroom to rubbing shoulders with some of his biggest idols in just a few whirlwind years.

After winning the 2016 Kenny Wheeler jazz prize his career has skyrocketed and has even been described as one of the UK’s most prominent and talented young contemporary jazz guitarists. He started out in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and was spotted as one-to-watch from the age of 15. Now he is touring up and down the country pleasing his audiences and being well received by jazz critics and commentators alike.

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His skills on the guitar are indescribable. He masters both speed and accuracy making endless descending arpeggios look easy. Fusing jazz with influences from German house music, folk songs and African rhythms, it might sound like it shouldn’t work but it absolutely does. His talent for both guitar playing and composing is enough for the audience in The Daffodil look up from their puddings.

His debut album, ‘Riser’ was released in July 2017 which featured all the songs we heard that evening, including some personal favourites of the title track Riser, Berlin and Night Songs. In between the songs from his album he built a solid rapport with the audience. He modestly bumbled through stories of his heroes and tributes to his friends, ending the set by stating “um, I have an album, I’d like you to buy it otherwise I might collapse”, he had everybody charmed.

Accompanying him was his incredible band consisting of bass guitar, piano (both electric and grand), tenor saxophone and drums. They were all stand out musicians, each member had their own song to really show what they could do and the standard of talent they set was extraordinary. His drummer in particular, who had stepped in last minute and had to sight read the whole set (which is no mean feat), was incredible. His eyes glued to the sheet as his drum sticks moved faster than was comprehensible.


This London boy has fused jazz and African music and it works so well. Each time they began a song, Rob began to grin from ear to ear as he rocked out to his homemade beats. It was a joy to watch five musicians in their element, it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the music.

To read our full coverage of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival head to this link to find the PDF of our magazine.

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