out in the street, they call it Ezra
As we saw the British jazz quintet of Ezra Collective take to the stage in Ronnie Scotts as a headline slot in 2017 – an occasion all in itself for those in the UK jazz scene – we knew that Ezra Collective were bringing something special.
Widely hailed as one of the groups pioneering the new-wave of UK jazz, Ezra Collective are the perfect insignia for the love of all things music. Earning their stripes via Tomorrow’s Warriors originally as a youth band, they have since sprawled into the go-to architects during a new phase for London’s next musical journey. Interloping their adoration for UK Grime from the “blueprints” of Boy Better Know, the “Everything London” collective weave and splash a multitude of jazz sub-genres, grime and funky afro-beat digs into a cocktail of blitzing tricks and dizzying instrumentation. All paired with slick confidence, mind.
Staking a claim as rightful protagonists to the country’s burgeoning jazz resurgence, the collective’s new album, Where I’m Meant To Be follows on from the trailed footsteps of 2019’s You Can’t Steal My Joy. When all hives of musical activity were abruptly stopped due to the pandemic, the collective really had to pause and think about their next course of action, resulting them into a real creative transition. Championed with refined character and a new sense of time on their hands, the new era for the group see them venturing down the path with raised stakes, as call-and-response improvisation ebb and flow between a 14-track ensemble of fluidity, funky hybridisation, all building up to true artistic creativity.
Composed of: drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso, bassist TJ Koleoso, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, and tenor saxophonist James Mollison.
Featuring special guests including Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical, Emile Sande and Nao; the 14 tracks that form the collective’s upcoming record are intended to be the ultimate celebration of life. A beckoning of new horizons post-pandemic is certainly on the cards, as Emile Sande swoons on booming Siesta, “Yes you’ve got one life to give / So give it all you can give / Don’t let the pressure crush you / Don’t ever let them rush you.” While poet Sampa The Great enchants the help and love of music in Life Goes On, “From the street to the city to the ghetto / Shout it from the roof when they hear the instrumental.”
The first taste of Ezra Collective’s new venture, Life Goes On is a thumping tune led by trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, tenor saxophonist James Mollison. It manages to twist and shake into the rush of Victory Dance, a truly addictive anthem emanating a span of multi-genre sounds. From the two-step funky works, the body-shifting scales of samba, landing on the lush undertones of dub reggae and finally to the kindred of jazz bops – it is an aggressive smash-up set to “go off” live. A true narrative led by heard and devotion for the love of music, it is a tantalising 5-minute energiser, as the magic of improvisation allows all members to have their moment in the spotlight. Trailblazing No Confusion is up next, a superior narrative into understanding exactly who you are and why you do what you do, I don’t want no confusion / Been me still me been proven, led by “renaissance man” from East London, Kojey Radical.
WhileWelcome to my World has a runtime of 7 minutes, it feels no way congested. All about beckoning the new people through, it is the perfect introduction to Ezra Collective’s new explosive era, as they chart through unknown terrain. Another worthy highlight has to be Ego Killah. Armon-Jones’s salsa piano stabbings and Koleoso’s funky bass-line are textbook-Ezra. Meanwhile, bandleader and drummer Femi Koleoso leads the quintet with a funky afro-beat as the cross stick whips through the horns playing a wildly enchanting strain throughout the seemingly haunting tune. An instrumental that can also be worth a slot on the swampy back-end of Melancholy Beach – a funny-you-should-say moment as Femi also plays the drums for the Gorillaz – Ego Killah is all about that humility that happens to you when you’re meant to be there, but you’re not quite there yet.
Harnessing the beauty of artistic creation with the realisation of time on their hands, Where I’m Meant To Be is a journey – not just a destination. Feeling brand new, Ezra Collective are back and bigger than before.
Albeit excited to hit this one live, no doubt. They first hit Leeds at Belgrave Music Hall on the 6th, followed by Nottingham at Rough Trade on the 7th, ending with a hometown London performance at Rough Trade East on the 10th.