Dave O'Higgins & Rob Luft: Plays Monk & Trane

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Dave O'Higgins & Rob Luft: Plays Monk & Trane
Hearing the young British guitarist Rob Luft for the first time on his debut album, Riser (Edition, 2017), was rather like hearing American guitarist Johnny Smith for the first time on Moonlight In Vermont (Roost, 1956). You knew you were listening to something special. And while much separates the players' styles, much unites them, too: Smith's signature was long-form chorded passages, Luft's is effervescent single-note runs, but both approaches are intensely melodic and are enabled by virtuosic techniques, lightly worn.

Plays Monk & Trane was made with an identically configured lineup as the one on Riser—guitar, tenor saxophone, organ, drums—but it cannot really be described as a follow-up. On Riser, Luft was centre-stage on ten originals. On Plays Monk & Trane, he shares the spotlight with saxophonist Dave O'Higgins on a set of covers.

On its own terms, however, Plays Monk & Trane is delightful. The album brings together two generations of players. O'Higgins and drummer Rod Youngs have been, not fully round the block, but about halfway, while Luft and organist Scott Flanagan have yet to round the first corner. O'Higgins put out his first album, All Good Things (EFZ), in 1992. London-based, US-born Youngs debuted on Gil Scott-Heron and his Amnesia Express' Tales Of Gil Scott-Heron (Essential) in 1990. Youngs worked with Scott-Heron for over twenty years and more recently has been a member of saxophonist Denys Baptiste's band; he was a cornerstone of Baptiste's 2017 masterpiece, The Late Trane (Edition).

Plays Monk & Trane comprises five Thelonious Monk originals, ranging from the familiar ('"Round Midnight") to the lesser known ("Dreamland"), and seven other pre-modal tunes either written by John Coltrane ("Naima," "Like Sonny") or standards recorded by him during the same Prestige / Atlantic era. Tempos range from the furious to the chilled. Youngs and Flanagan play unobtrustive roles pretty much throughout, with the solos shared equally between Luft and O'Higgins.

It is a testament to Luft and O'Higgins that they succeed in making two familiar-as-they-get tunes—"Naima" and "'Round Midnight"—sound as fresh as spring daisies. Both are played without organ or drums and are straightforward and spellbinding and lovely. You almost wish the group had woven the same magic on more warhorses. But the lesser known tunes are shot through with the same sense of discovery.

Track Listing

Naima; Little Melonae; Locomotive; Minor Mishap; I’ll Wait And Pray; Trinkle Trinkle; Like Sonny; ‘Round Midnight; Spring Is Here; Dreamland; Locomotive.


Rob Luft: guitar; Dave O'Higgins: tenor saxophone; Scott Flanagan: organ (2-7, 9 ,10); Rod Youngs: drums (2-7, 9, 10).

Album information

Title: Plays Monk & Trane | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ubuntu Music

Post a comment about this album



Shop Amazon


Jazz Mix 12
Kris T Reeder
Horizons Quartet
Horizons Quartet
Gui Duvignau
On Fire
Bévort 3
Joshua Jern Jazz Orchestra
Inhabitable Imagination
Adrián Moncada
Where the Streets Lead
Slowly Rolling Camera
Where the Streets Lead
Slowly Rolling Camera


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.