London-based Ezra Collective’s second album Juan Pablo: The Philosopher was hotly anticipated by the group’s fans. With a sound that resists definition, the band’s influences range from jazz, hip hop, grime and afrobeat to reggae. Ezra Collective is made up of key members from London’s ‘new’ jazz scene, and features brothers TJ and Femi Koleoso on bass and drums respectively, Joe Armon-Jones on piano, Dylan Jones on trumpet and James Mollison on tenor sax.
Punchy afrobeat track ‘Juan Pablo’ wouldn’t be out of place in the depths of a basement club in London. The Philosopher showcases the Ezra Collective musicians by incorporating stop-chorus sections, enabling soloists to showcase their fresh improvising skills over breaks.
Preceded by a spacey, lilting trumpet interlude played by Dylan Jones, aptly named ‘Dylan’s Dilemma’, the introspective ‘People in Trouble’ is a world away from the usual upbeat vibes of Ezra Collective. To begin, echoing strings accompany the trumpet and the band enters gradually. Later, a driving bassline starts and creates an infectious groove alongside the drums and piano. Joe Armon-Jones bursts into a burning jazz piano solo, which is a highlight of the album.
To finish the EP, James Mollison launches into a sax interlude ‘James Speaks to the Galaxy’, which leads into ‘Space Is the Place’; an innovative, radical take on Sun Ra’s composition. With cosmic leanings and spiritual jazz influences, this track is a high contender for the star piece of the album.
Juan Pablo: The Philosopher places Ezra Collective as one of the most exciting bands on the current UK jazz scene, and points towards a sparkling future of genre-bending, new generation music. As with most jazz acts: best listened to live, this band should be seen, as well as heard.