Credit Aliyah Otchere

Review: Ezra Collective “body” it on stage @ SWG3

By Luke Chafer

The band give back to the city that flourished them with a formidable jazz fusion show.

Swapping Radnor fizz for Red Stripe, seeing Femi and T.J. Keleoso of Ezra Collective grace the stage at SWG3 was a far cry from their performance at our school jazz night ten years ago. Yet the same emphatic energy enthused the crowd as they produced an hour forty-five straight of sheer enthusiasm, happiness and joy.

Though one of my favourite bands, I was apprehensive before the gig: a lot of their tracks feature other artists, notably Loyle Carner and Sampha, and I was reluctant for this to overlay the instrumentation. Luckily, this was not the case: the set ebbed beautifully, with a mid-set lull allowing T.J. to show off his skill on bass, before eventually building to a crescendo of São Paulo

In an interlude, Femi recounted their journey as a band. Born in a youth club in North London, they had their first break performing at the after-party for a Glasgow short film festival. At the time they didn’t even have a manager, and Femi recalled making a second Facebook profile to interact with the agency that initially enquired. They crammed into TJ’s “bad whip” (a Toyota Prius) and made the long journey up to Glasgow. He said they just dreamed of one day playing the jazz club circuit, but now they “body” it on the stage of “club clubs”.

Despite the positive energy that filled the room, Femi’s final interlude highlighted the realities of touring. He said that touring is no longer financially viable for bands in the middle bracket, and urged fans to buy merch at the end to allow them to stay on the road. What was apparent, though, was how much this meant to them: the whole band came down to the merch stand after. For them it wasn’t a chore, because they seemed genuinely eager to interact with their fans. 

The gig felt like a group of pals having a jam, just that a thousand-odd folk happened to be there. The on-stage support and appreciation for one another’s talents transcended the crowd, whether that be Joe Armon Jones on keys pulling off another incredible riff, or the fluidity of James Mollison on sax and Ife Ogunjobi on trumpet. In a sample at the beginning of No Confusion, the band said: “Everybody will think that I’m gonna be playing jazz like the Americans, I’m playing Jazz my way. Coupled with plenty of  charisma, the Ezra Collective’s blending of afrobeat influence from Fela Kuti with a characteristically upbeat tempo produced a jazz show like no other.


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