Event Review: Ezra Collective @ Patterns (Brighton; Wednesday 14th November 2018)

 Every now and then, but not so often as to make you blasé, you can find yourself at a gig that will truly leave you speechless and absolutely quivering with the sheer joy of the experience, such is the level of the musical dynamics on show. This was one such gig.

In fact, dynamic might be a good place to start. Along with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Kamaal Williams, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, to name but a few, Ezra Collective are without doubt one of the leading lights in the new wave of UK Jazz. Led by the phenomenal Femi Koleoso on drums, EC combine elements of jazz, funk and afrobeat with an infectious intensity that is simply startling.

With their entire UK tour sold out, one knew to expect the very compact Patterns to be crammed full. Along with Femi’s brother TJ on bass, EC is comprised of Joe Armon-Jones on keys, Dylan Jones on trumpet and James Mollison on sax. From the opening bars of ‘The Philosopher’, there was an instantaneous collective sense of awe. Ezra Collective are also a humble group. Femi remarked on the metal barrier positioned to deter the audience from standing in the space behind him, claiming that they’re not that sort of band; rather, they are much more down to earth. He then ushered audience members into that space. Upon accidentally tossing a stick behind him, gratitude was immediately bestowed upon the young lady who returned it. There was also a mention given to the creative process and its place in this crazy, chaotic world that we currently inhabit. Whatever gives you pleasure, be it music, art, food or another, it is a very key component of our lives. Alongside the humility, the love of music as a whole and the acknowledgement of their heritage came across very keenly.

Mollison’s broad tone introduced us to Sun Ra’s classic ‘Space Is The Place’, before the rest of the band filled the room with this very melodic version. Armon-Jones weaved his magic on the keyboard with a glorious solo, before they returned to the rousing head, a refrain that was repeated later on. Shanks & Bigfoot’s classic 90s garage anthem, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, also got the playful Ezra treatment, and there was also a nod to grime legend Dizzee Rascal with a new piece, ‘Sao Paolo’.

Throughout the evening, EC’s informal approach was a constant. Their musicianship is such that they don’t require any extra bells and whistles. There was a constant dialogue on stage, in particular between the brothers, which one can imagine as a duel that has existed in many guises since childhood. Femi and Armon-Jones also locked their stare on a number of occasions, exchanging both exhilarating virtuosity and quirky facial expressions in equal measure.

In the cosy confines of Patterns, we had some thrilling sounds from this scintillating quintet, and all tied up with an earthy reality, a healthy dose of good grace and plenty of humour.

An Ezra Collective gig should be on everybody’s bucket list.