Ezra Collective – Live at Islington Assembly Hall


Drummer Femi Koleoso lays down an infectious backbeat as he is soon joined on-stage by TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, Dylan Jones on trumpet, and James Mollison on tenor saxophone. The crescendo of screams from the audience reaches its peak when the band become one. Together they are Ezra Collective, currently one of the UK's hippest ensembles right on the cutting edge of jazz.

Having emerged from Gary Crosby's Tomorrow's Warriors programme, Ezra Collective brought their fresh brand of Afrobeat jazz to Islington Assembly Hall on Sunday night, as the EFG London Jazz Festival came to a close. But rather than let it simply fizzle out, Ezra Collective ensured that it ended with a bang, delivering a brilliant and engaging set showcasing material from their new EP Juan Pablo The Philosopher, released last month. Each musician brings their own style to the table with immense talent; Dylan's bright and virtuosic solo in Enter The Jungle is contrasted with his unaccompanied introduction to People in Trouble, a melancholic and sorrowful whisper in comparison. This pairs with James' haunting tenor sax rendition of James Speaks to the Universe, right before the band lift the mood once again with their cover of Sun Ra's Space is the Place. And when he isn't driving the band, Femi draws in everyone's attention with his thunderous drum solos.

Supporting were Kokoroko, an Afrobeat ensemble from London, bringing rich harmonic tone with an all-female saxophone-trumpet-trombone front line, as well as vocals and a striking rhythm section. Ezra Collective were also joined by a couple of guest musicians throughout the night: nu-soul and R&B singer Jorja Smith, and later Nubya Garcia on baritone saxophone. Garcia is another emerging talent on the scene, with a comprehensive skill on her instrument. Though perhaps it is more apt to say instruments, having demonstrated her skill on alto saxophone and even flute at Electric Ballroom supporting Christian Scott on Wednesday.

"Do you like to party?" Femi asks the audience encouragingly, and he is met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Ezra Collective have proved their popularity with today's younger generation. This group of truly great musicians are a fine example of where the future of jazz is headed, and it's headed in the right direction.

– Gareth Thomas