Ezra Collective have long been the London jazz scene’s de facto party band, but their second album is a sophisticated step up. Its 14 tracks ponder their place in the world, and find these five instrumentalists standing on the shoulders of their forefathers: a song called Belonging follows snatches of a phone conversation with the film director Steve McQueen; there’s a nod to Damien Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock; and starting No Confusion, the voice of the late Nigerian drummer Tony Allen intones: “I’m playing jazz my way.”
As are Ezra: their ever-expanding vocabulary – always heavy on afrobeat, dub and the young sounds of London – includes riotous salsa, UK funky, what sounds like the brass backbone to South African gqom and some seriously impressive genre blends in the league of Little Simz. The mellifluous vocals of chameleonic rappers Kojey Radical and Sampa the Great wrap around their music, serpentine-like; singers Emeli Sandé and Nao sparkle respectively on Siesta (recalling MJ Cole’s Sincere) and the cosmic devotional Love in Outer Space. Ezra Collective show off not just their intuitive playing, but their knack for songwriting.
The result is an exceptional album that centres joy and community, radiates positivity and youthful abandon, and could well be the one to cross over to the big league.