Ezra Collective is breathing new life into one of music’s greatest institutions. After attracting attention last year with “Pure Shade” and “Reason in Disguise,” the London jazz band is set to release its debut album, You Can’t Steal My Joy, in April. Now, Ezra Collective is sharing its latest single, “Quest for Coin.”
The track’s expeditious energy hums with the exhilaration and ambition of new possibilities. The wandering saxophone, layered over a rapid heartbeat of bass and toms, bottles the life of a fast-paced city into four minutes.
The members of Ezra Collective — Femi Koleoso on drums, TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, Dylan Jones on trumpet and James Mollison on saxophone — met seven years ago at a jazz youth program called Tomorrow’s Warriors and formed the group soon after.
The band has helped lead a millennial-focused jazz resurgence in the U.K. because of its ability to test musical boundaries: Ezra Collective frequently experiments with garage, Afrobeat and hip-hop. Bandleader Femi Koleoso says these fusions bring together each member’s musical upbringing and work to break down stereotypes surrounding a great but sometimes rigid genre.
“For me, it’s reflecting the energy of the city. In London, things are changing all the time, and that’s how we feel about the jazz scene at the moment,” Koleoso says. “I realized really young I could never be as great as John Coltrane or Max Roach. I could never be another J Dilla. The only thing I could be was the best Femi Koleoso I could be. And that involves referencing everything I love. Whether it’s Fela Kuti or whether it’s Burna Boy. … Just trying to bring that out as naturally as possible, that’s how we’ve got this mix of genres. We’re kind of not letting the word ‘jazz’ be something that restricts us, but letting it be something that brings freedom.”
The title of the band’s forthcoming debut suggests defining your own happiness, even as a form of protest against society’s constraints. “Being a young person growing up in this city, it feels like every movement the government makes is an attempt to steal our joy,” Koleoso says. “But the joys of this brotherhood, of this music, that’s something you can’t steal.”
You Can’t Steal My Joy is due out April 26 via Enter The Jungle.