Sorry so slow getting this one out… I think I may have lost a day!
It was right around the midnight hour that I dropped into bed – late on a Monday, night – still buzzing from what I can only describe as one of the single most High-Energy “Jazz” shows anyone in this sleepy little hamlet has likely seen in years – if ever..Finally, London Next-Gen Jazz Lions, The EZRA Collective have left their official mark on Los Angeles. Their show at The Roxy was far and beyond ‘worthy’ of the legendary room… to put it bold and bluntly, these bruvs blew the back out of the building – just around 40 years after Herbie Hancock first brought his own contemporary evolution of Jazz into the same space [typically known for Rock and Pop shows] when he played the stage there, back in 1979!.Last night, with no opener and no holds barred, Hollywood proper was introduced to the North London crew who’ve been friends and family since meeting at a Jazz youth center as teens. .The brotherhood of beat-bangers was joined on the night by trumpet blast-master, Ife Ogunjobi, whom I’d never before seen play [though I’ve had the pleasure of seeing EZRA a number of times with Dylan]. Mr. Ogunjobi pulled far beyond par with his playing and solos, fitting right in with the band both musically and matching the playful vibe and energy! .The remainder of the line-up was comprised of the unusual suspects… Featuring the low-key / high-energy keyboard maestro Joe Armon-Jones, Saxophonist James Mollison, and the [blood] brothers at the bottom end… TJ Koleoso on bass and Femi the LEGEND Koleoso behind the drum kit!.
EZRA Collective are currently touring in support of both, their newest and their next albums, simultaneously… and seeing what we all saw yesternight.. it might prove hard for many to believe that these cats have been putting on THIS show, night after night and city – year after year, now…. and around the world. .We of THE NONSEMBLE knew going in.
The first time we saw the guys play [moons ago at the Jazz Re:freshed showcase for SXSW in Austin, Texas], we were treated to a six or seven band line-up… with FEMI playing the drums straight through for more than half the bands. Yes – at his signature level of power and precision. Yes – all night long…. we know what the man is capable of..
Ever the sweet soul and true man, Femi stopped by our table for a ‘drive-by Hi’ on his way backstage… always a pleasure to run into any of these cats out and about, as they have always and only been some of the most humble and heart-led cats around.
The band hit the stage ten toes down and running, with their deluxe rendition of one of their many signature tracks, “The Philosopher” from their 2017 outing, “Juan Pablo: The Philosopher”. .I’m pretty sure they’ve played [the SPIT out of] this track each time I’ve seen them live… and I would swear, they have blown me away with the song and their razor-sharp execution of it each and every, single time. Last night was no exception.. They kept that same level up throughout, with only a few strategic exceptions – the mid-tempo “Colonial Mentality” brought an almost ska-reggae vibe and the solo intro that Mollison delivered on the way into the EZRA-take-it-easy, beefed up version of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place”. In the heads, horns and hands of The EZRA Collective, Sun Ra’s classic tune is taken up a notch into the realm of a much better than average Dance floor Jazz jam!.At one point, TJ’s soulful bass solo ventured from Woodstock classic rock, down past KCs sunshine into Sly’s funky soul before trailing us back into the bits, beats and pieces of a very specific EZRA spundscape!
Through the night, almost every stick trick and finger flick of each of Femi and Joe’s several head-to-head mini-jams was met with loudly voiced glee from just about every soul in the nearly sold-out show room..The crowed rocked and rolled with them right up to the moment that Joe’s keys went did – during a much needed and greatly appreciated encore….Ever the soulful soldier, Femi couldn’t be bothered to shake as much as a drum stick or finger at the overzealous, overstepping soundman..”We had more to that tune, but we would have needed the piano.” He smiled as he stood up behind his boldly beaten drum set to thank and bless the crowd for coming out..I don’t know. All I can say is…
IF YOU GET A CHACE TO SEE THESE CATS….
GET OUT – PAY YOUR MONEY AND SEE. THESE. CATS! Any and every time!.Get your hands on their tunes across all channels and make sure to look out for their next. You can thank me now AND later!
EZRA Collective [from Left]: James Mollison, Femi & TJ Koleoso, Ife Ogunjobi and Joe Armon-Jones…