Maisie Wills reviews

Ezra Collective

"Not everything is good right now in the world but there's always something to be happy about" are the words echoed around  Óran Mór as Ezra Collective drummer, Femi Koleoso, addresses the crowd before descending into the last song, 'São Paolo'. The fully packed Glasgow basement erupted into movement and there wasnt a single soul stood still. But this was not the only time of the night you could feel like something was really beginning to happen, that the freedom so often associated with jazz was being revived.

Ezra Collective, 2018 

Stepping foot into Óran Mór, a basement venue just out of the city, the energetic joy Ezra Collective being wherever they step was present long before they started playing. The London jazz ensemble, made up of Femi Koleoso on drums, TJ Koleoso on bass, Dylan Jones on trumpet, James Mollison on saxophone and Joe Armon-Jones on keys, are by no means new to the world of music but this performance captured the joy of playing for an audience for the first time. There was the sense they were experiencing this for the first time, along with the audience; a band genuinely grateful for the audience they've acquired over the last seven years and a band wholly connected to the spontaneous spirit of jazz.

The band opened with their well known tracks 'The Philosopher' and 'Colonial Mentality', before stopping to light an incense stick on Armon-Jones' keyboard, a small detail but one which connected the players and the audience. It's clear that Ezra Collective not only work well as musicians but also as people; their love for one another infused the performance with a level of energy difficult to acquire in jazz currently. However the band are proud of the music they play and its roots in jazz, stopping to pay homage to the great Sun Ra with 'Space is the Place'. They also acknowledge their afrobeat influences, tributing Femi Kuti's 'Water No Enemy', and adding their own distinctive style on top of that, a lot of which comes from the genuine connection between the players. This was all before introducing a cover, inspired by the newly released 'Joker' film, of Charlie Chaplin's composition 'Smile'. Ezra Collective look back to great performers, seemingly failing to acknowledge they are ones themselves and it's their humble nature which adds to the beauty of the performance.

As well as paying tribute to their musical influences, Ezra Collective emphasise the importance of Glasgow as a city for music lovers. Femi Koleoso gave an emotional speech about the difficulties of making it in the jazz world as a working-class troupe of young Londoners and then again, the trials which come with making jazz feel accessible to a wide demographic. The audience were silent as the band discussed the joy they felt being in Glasgow, the first place they played outside a jazz club and the energy that had bought. Now, years on that energy still exists and the band were full of gratitude for an audience still as full of life as they are. Every gig in Glasgow seems to be filled with people who have such a love for music as well as each other, and combined with the undeniable talent that Ezra Collective bring it was no surprise the crowd let loose during the final song, 'São Paolo', the track which had "blown the roof" (Koleoso) off Glasgow when it was first played live years previously.