Born 10 January 1995, Celle, Niedersachsen, Germany
Boogie woogie pianist
Ever since Axel Zwingenberger instigated the European boogie woogie revival in the 1970s, Germany has been at the centre of contemporary boogie woogie. Or, more precisely, the German-speaking countries, because Switzerland and especially Austria have also delivered their share of good boogie pianists. Many new artists came to the fore in the 1970s and 1980s, but they are all in their fifties or late forties now and new blood is needed. So it is very fortunate that an exceptional new talent has emerged on the German boogie woogie scene : Luca Sestak, twenty years old at this time of writing. In 2010 Peter Nystrom (from Sweden) wrote in Jefferson Bluesmagazine : "The future of boogie woogie piano relies on a white German kid, who hasn’t yet left primary school. How about that!”.
According to his website, Luca started playing the piano at the age of eight and a half but there exists a 40-second video on YouTube, where he plays Scott Joplin’s ragtime classic “The Entertainer” at the age of six. At first Luca hated the piano lessons, as he didn’t like classical music at all, though he learned to appreciate it later. After two years of classical piano lessons Sestak discovered jazz and blues music, in particular boogie woogie, mainly through YouTube. Captivated by this musical style, he began to teach himself blues piano while still taking classical lessons. In December 2006, he shared his first videos on YouTube. The next year, at the age of twelve, Luca visited the famous International Boogie Woogie Festival in Lugano, Switzerland, where he knew Axel Zwingenberger would perform.
Also in 2007, Sestak began composing his own songs, in particular “Boogie 99” and “My Rock ’n’ Boogie”. Both are available on YouTube in versions from that period. “My Rock ’n’ Boogie” shows that he has a very powerful left hand, which had already mastered the “walking bass” technique to perfection at age 13. The video that really established his name was his 2009 version of “Swanee River Boogie”, which has been watched more than 3,100,000 times as of late 2015.
In November 2010 Luca released his first CD, “Lost In Boogie”. It featured the three titles mentioned above, along with a few more of his own compositions, some boogie woogie classics, a James Booker imitation, three slow blues numbers, and, one of the highlights, Sestak’s stride arrangement of the Lovin’ Spoonful number “Daydream”. All in all, this first album was a tour de force for a fifteen-year old. Yet, somehow the live versions on YouTube sound (even) more energetic than the clean studio versions. This is an artist that needs to be seen live.
At the age of 13, Luca began with solo public appearances in his (then) hometown of Karlsruhe. In 2010 he appeared on German television for the first time. After winning several prizes, he was soon invited for concerts and festivals all over Germany and later also in Austria, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Holland, the UK, Spain and the USA. He has shared the stage with many famous boogie woogie players, like Bob Seeley, Frank Muschalle, Vince Weber, Ben Waters, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Silvan Zingg and Lluis Coloma.
The year 2014 saw the release of his second CD, “New Way”, again self-published. Ten of the thirteen tracks are Luca’s own compositions. In terms of boogie woogie content, it is somewhat disappointing, with only one pure boogie number, “Laci’s Boogie”. Well, perhaps the 100 mph “Key Engine” also qualifies as boogie woogie. Where the first CD showed a strong Albert Ammons influence, this second album has James Booker written all over it, Booker being one of his idols. It is an eclectic collection, with jazz, blues, a beautiful piano ballad (“For Her”) and a 7-minute bluesy adaptation of a Chopin nocturne.
Today, Sestak plays mainly his own compositions at concerts, usually accompanied by a drummer. A performance in Brussels, planned for mid-November 2015 had to be rescheduled due to the terrorist threat. His technique, already amazingly good, is still improving and he is also developing a good stage act. See for instance how he hits a key with his nose in the “Blame Game” video (at 4:17). Add to this his versatility and he has the potential of becoming the world’s greatest living boogie woogie pianist. If he remains dedicated to the genre, that is. Judging by the “New Way” CD and his recent concerts, boogie woogie is no longer his first priority.
The chronological order of the YouTube performances mentioned below gives you a chance to trace the development of a unique talent from age 12 to age 20.
Official website : http://www.lucasestak.com
Interview (2011) :
Acknowledgements : Luca's official website, YouTube channel and Facebook account.
Selection of live performances on YouTube, starting at age 12 :
- Colorado Boogie (2007) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sAQg4trdQE
Dik, December 2015
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