Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Spoken of in the same breath as Sons of Kemet, Maisha and The Comet is Coming, the five-piece British outfit Ezra Collective are part of the new wave of jazz coming out of London where artists collaborate and support each other, yet can take quite divergent paths.
Ezra Collective have already picked up a number of accolades for two previous EPs but if, for example, The Comet is Coming aim for the farther reaches on the back of some gritty electronica substructures, EC adopt a more soulful and dialed down approach on much of this debut which nods to soul, reggae loping grooves, Latin (on Sao Paulo) and just a bit of Afrobeat.
Singer Jorja Smith brings yearning soul to the single-length Reason in Disguise which sounds to have radio in its sights, Loyle Carner offers a slick soul-rap on the inner-city rumination of What Am I to Do? and there's a clubland and dance-party vibe across most of these 13 tracks and is very much the sound of multi-culti London.
Keyboard Joe Armon Jones is the interesting if often understated presence (check his solo spot Philosopher II) behind the trumpet and sax of Dylan Jones and James Mollison. But it is the brothers Femi and TJ Koleoso on drums and bass respectively who interlock and really drive some of these pieces (the steady boil of Chris and Jane, the Afro-referenced People Saved and especially the fat-free and excellent title track with keyboardist Jones getting some tidy space).
Shakara featuring the eight-piece Afrobeat outfit Kokoroko is a slice of Tony Allen/Fela but, exciting and accomplished though it is, it is also very familiar.
Among Ezra Collective's awards recently have been best UK jazz act and live experience of the year at the 2018 Jazz FM Awards, both of which tell you that these people can probably bring a room to white heat.
Not everything here suggests that however, and on current recorded evidence The Comet is Coming have delivered Elsewhere's favoured and most challenging album out of this new wave of British jazz.
But the EC grooves here can certainly be infections.