13th November | Thekla

You can smell a sell-out by just walking into Thekla, and the stench of beer and bustling bodies hit me as I walked down the stairs. It’s not every day you get to see one of the country’s freshest jazz acts perform on a boat. I last saw Ezra Collective at Love Supreme during the scorching summer, so it’s safe to say I was more than hyped for their sell-out show in Bristol. They’re currently pioneering the jazz scene in London and slowly taking the rest of the world by storm. This show was packed with cosmic keys and beefy breakdowns and some heartfelt anecdotes from drummer, Femi Koleoso.

Support came from the charming Nicky Soft Touch, who won the crowd over with his DJ set filled with jazzy beats, popping synth lines and disco flourishes. The Bristol-based DJ has cemented a fanbase in the city with monthly shows on Noods Radio. Keep your eyes out for more of his electro-jazz beats on the radio waves.

Ezra Collective then made it to the stage, greeted by roaring applause from the audience. Opening the set was Dylan Jones on trumpet, playing a riff which had some oriental vibes. Joe Armon Jones cranked things up a notch with a killer keys solo. It felt as though I was watching a blossoming open jam, each musician augmenting the other. Packed with beaming keys, oscillations and mighty breakdowns, Ezra Collective kicked things off with an incredible bang.

“Yo, what’s up Bristol? We’re mad excited to be here,” Femi said enthusiastically. He then retold a story of how they first came to Bristol four years ago and played The Canteen. It was also the first city outside of London that they played, a fact that drew a roar from the crowd. “Thanks for coming and partying with us,” Femi exclaimed, before the five-piece then leapt into ‘The Philosopher’,which had a thrillingly catchy lead riff which saw everybody moving in what little space they had.

The actual track itself is just over five minutes in length, however this was stretched massively for the live performance. It was a total delight to see the elongated extra bits; it felt like an uncut version of the real deal. A stunning drum/percussion solo saw the audience silenced, bringing it down to a mere whisper. The tempo gradually began to climb as did the cheers in a perfect unison.

A thrilling cover of ‘Space Is The Place’ by Sun Ra was slick and smooth – this wasn’t your ordinary cover. Filled with magnetic trumpet frills and a swirling sax solo, this was a fiery cover which was blindingly insane. Then came ‘People Who Travel,’ which saw Femi take to the mic and announce that it’ll be “introduced seductively by Dylan Jones, I wanna see tears everybody”.

The crowd were diligent. A single dusky spotlight fell on him and we were all immersed in this mystical scene. Dylan then playfully transitioned into ‘Pure Imagination’ by the late Gene Wilder, which then prompted a fella in the audience to shout “stop showing off!”. It was a bellowing beast of a tune which was embedded with afro-beat and world influences.

Final tune of the night, ‘Juan Pablo’ was dedicated to “all the party animals out there”. A straight up jazz tune which seeped with funk. Femi got the entire crowd crouching, counting to ten before the fattest beat drop of all time was launched. Everyone jumped in the air and flung their arms up triumphantly – talk about exhilarating.

The choice of encore song was a thrilling rendition of Fela Kuti’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’. Before leaving, Femi left us all with some words of wisdom: “support local musicians, support live music and the venues that keep them alive”.

See Ezra Collective play ‘Enter The Jungle’ live here: