This year’s winner of the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize – awarded each year for a young graduate of the Royal Academy Of Music in London who demonstrates excellence in both composition and performance – is guitarist Rob Luft.
He is sixth winner since the inception of this award, a joint venture between the Royal Academy and Edition Records. Previous recipients have bee
saxophonist Josh Arcoleo (2011), trumpeter Reuben Fowler (’12), vocalist Lauren Kinsella (’13), bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (’14), and vibraphonist Ralph Wyld (’15).
The decision was made by the judging panel of Edition Records boss Dave Stapleton, the Academy’s head of jazz Nick Smart and the saxophonist Evan Parker, a lifelong collaborator of the trumpeter in whose honour the prize is named.
Parker said: “This year’s discussions were more intense than ever. The standard of musicianship and originality of creative vision that have become the hallmark of the Kenny Wheeler Prize winners were achieved by many of the entrants so that, inevitably, other considerations came in to help us make our final choice. Rob Luft convinced us that not only was he a great improvising guitarist, but his written material, arrangements and leadership seemed to inspire the other members of his group to play their best. Our final decision was unanimous.”
Stapleton added: “In this sixth year of the Kenny Wheeler prize, the wealth of talent emerging from the Academy’s Jazz course continues to astound us on the panel… Rob’s own musical direction combined with his gifts as an instrumentalist and composer, will no doubt provide huge value to the strength of the European Jazz Scene in the future and we look forward to sharing Rob’s journey on releasing his debut album.”
Rob Luft joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra at 15, went on to study at the Royal Academy and co-founded tango quintet The Deco Ensemble. He has played on many live dates and recording sessions including recently Lianne Carroll’s Seaside. The prize means he can record his debut album for release on Edition Records.
He said: “This (prize) represents a golden opportunity for me to think artistically and creatively about my music at a time when it is increasingly challenging for young jazz musicians to do so.”