It seems quaint now to think things were bad at the beginning of 2019, when Ezra Collective released their debut album You Can’t Steal My Joy; there wasn’t a global pandemic for a start, and even the most heinous, Tory boot-licker celebrant of austerity couldn’t have predicted the energy crisis we’re currently heading towards. Back then, London’s vanguard jazz act offered a white-hot emollient, a promise that things can momentarily be fine if you’d only just dance it off. In 2022, it’s tempting to say, “not now, Ezra Collective!”
“Positive vibrations, you get me?” – that’s how they choose to open Where I’m Meant To Be, and with a steady looping parp on James Mollison’s sax, Ezra Collective prove themselves undeniable once again. ‘Life Goes On’ is a reminder that pop is at the heart of what they do – Sampa The Great, the first of the album’s many guest spots, sees to literally voicing that – but there’s a shifting in-the-room raggedness to Where I’m Meant To Be that makes things feel a little more volatile. Drummer-bandleader Femi Koleoso consistently finds cheeky ways of moving beyond the obvious, throwing tantalising pauses into the reggaeton rhythm of ‘Togetherness’, setting an emphasising rimshots just off the reggae down beat of ‘Ego Killah’.
There are cornball moments – Emeli Sandé delivering the line “Jump into the moment and make sure you make a splash” on the otherwise lovely ‘Siesta’ comes to mind – but Ezra Collective’s earnestness is still infectious. Don’t overthink it.
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