29th November | Trinity
Photos: Ash Harnett
Ezra Collective brought their dynamic brand of jazz and an eagerness to party to The Trinity Centre on Friday night.
The evening’s support came from singer-songwriter, Sasha Keeble. Boasting a feature on Disclosure’s 2014 hit ‘Voices’, touring with pop-don, Katy B and having been featured en Vogue, Keeble is no undiscovered name. Yet if you didn’t know her before, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t have caught on by the time you left. Perched on a stool in a silky cowl-neck, accompanied by one-man acoustic band, the artist’s set was organically modest. Having clearly taken notes from fellow Brit-school attendees, Amy Winehouse and Adele, Keeble’s performance was elevated by soulful, smoky vocals and chatty stage presence. She welcomed the sold-out crowd with recent material, including ‘Treat Me Like I’m All Yours’ and ‘Loyalty’.
As Ezra Collective’s set kicked off, the band didn’t hesitate to ramp up the energy in the room. Within seconds of the headliners taking to their respective instruments, an infectious enthusiasm swept the crowd. Shoulders began to sway and feet began to shuffle as the group launched into tracks such as ’The Philosopher’, taken from 2018’s Juan Pablo: The Philosopher and ‘Red Whine’ and ‘Chris and Jane’ from 2019’s You Can’t Steal My Joy.
“People have preconceived ideas about what jazz should be,” TJ Kolesso explained. Chronicling the group’s experiences of coming up with both a non-traditional sound and an unpretentious aesthetic in London’s established jazz scene, the bassist preached the beauty in just “doing you,” dismissing the need to fulfil expectations and contort yourself into a socially-constructed box of what you ‘should be’. Undoubtedly, by simply doing them, and in carving their own non-conformist version of what jazz is, within a stereotypically highbrow sphere, the quintet have garnered an eclectic, continually expanding fan base.
As the set neared its close, the band paid tribute to the late American composer, Sun Ra, covering ‘Outer Space’. It quickly became clear that possessing an awareness of where your journey started and who inspired you along the way are hugely important to the men on stage. Where audiences are frequently subjected to a recycled spiel about how their city brings out the ‘best crowds’, it was refreshing to hear Femi Koleosso explain the tangible impact that Bristol has had on their career. From receiving an unexpectedly exuberant reception at The Canteen, to securing a Glastonbury slot on the back of a Thekla gig, Bristol has played an intrinsic role in the group’s success.
Above all, the beauty of Ezra Collective’s music lies in its capacity to unite generations and resonate with an audience of late-teens, young professionals and fifty-somethings in equal measure. Technically stunning, universally accessible and undeniably feelgood, the Collective’s show firmly exploited ‘that Friday feeling’. Showcasing talent sits secondary on Ezra Collective’s agenda; “bringing a party” comes first.
See Ezra Collective play ‘You Can’t Steal My Joy’ live on BBC 6Music here: