London jazz group Ezra Collective bring their headline tour, and the party, to Stealth for a sold-out show.
From observing current trends in popular ‘mainstream’ music, it would appear at a first glance that with the dominance of pop, hip-hop and rock, jazz is presently a seriously undervalued genre. This is despite it being a style of music with plenty of merit and often great artistry. However, the reality is that jazz as a genre is experiencing a strong period of success, drawing in a substantial fan base as well as critical acclaim. Artists such as Kamasi Washington and Canadian quartet BADBADNOTGOOD are perhaps the figureheads in North America whilst in the UK, there is a vibrant, growing jazz scene with groups such as Sons of Kemet and GoGo Penguin, who have both been nominated for a Mercury Prize.
Ezra Collective are another of these young UK jazz groups making a serious impression and their popularity and quality was on full show at their sold-out gig at Stealth on the 17th of November. The downstairs area of the venue was fairly empty when I arrived, with funky soul, jazz and hip-hop sounds floating around, but by the time the London based quintet emerged onto the stage, there was hardly an inch of space unoccupied by an eager fan, ready to dance along to some jazz. Opening with the main hook from Skepta’s “Shutdown”, they then slipped into fan favourite “The Philosopher” from their 2017 EP “Juan Pablo: The Philosopher”. The band delivered a couple more tracks, often with a heavy focus on jamming and solos, which really displayed their skill with their respective instruments. In fact, each member had their moment in the spotlight from Dylan Jones on trumpet to bassist TJ Koleoso, and without a single even average performance.
In addition to being great performers, Ezra Collective were excellent showmen with drummer Femi Koleoso (who was incredible by the way) taking a moment between songs to talk about the band’s inspirations and philosophy, and promote a general idea of tolerance between each other as people and passion for their music. It was obvious that this was a group of young guys doing what they love and having an absolute blast in doing so.
They carried on with a cover on Sun Ra’s “Space Is the Place” and their own track “People In Trouble”, as well as including the brilliantly fun “Mace Windu Riddim” and the accompanying track to “The Philosopher”, “Juan Pablo”. I don’t think the crowd stopped dancing throughout the entire set, but Femi encouraged everyone to “dance like no one’s watching” as the band closed the night with a track called “São Paulo”, inspired by partying in Brazil.
Ezra Collective produced a fantastic set of modern jazz tunes and were wonderfully received by the crowd at Stealth, coming out for an encore to play a shorter version of Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy”. I would absolutely recommend checking out their work, and would watch out for new material, as frontman Femi Koleoso announced they will be releasing their first full length album in the near future.