Pretty much every year for 31 years the Mercury Prize judging panel has shortlisted a jazz act for the big annual best album award. That act never wins, but it’s comforting to know that they’re there, isn't it? Well now what do we do, because this year’s jazz act has only gone and won it! The world has turned on its head and Ezra Collective are riding the wave.
It really is about time too, because British jazz has been going through a big renaissance in recent years, with Ezra Collective one of its frontrunners. Also, their latest album ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’ is really great. So that helps too.
Accepting the award, Ezra Collective drummer Femi Koleoso said from the stage: “First of all, let me thank God, because if a jazz band winning the Mercury Prize doesn’t make you believe in God, I don’t know what will”.
“Ezra Collective represents something very special, because we met in a youth club and this moment that we’re celebrating right here is testimony to good, special people putting time and effort into [helping] young people to play music”, he went on.
“Right now, this is not just a result for Ezra Collective, this is not just a result for UK jazz, but this is a special moment for every single organisation across the country ploughing their efforts and time into young people playing music”, he concluded.
Commenting on their decision, the Mercury judging panel stated: "Virtuosity, community, listening to each other to work out where to go next... who knew that such seemingly old-fashioned values would come to the fore on the winning album of the 2023 Mercury Prize?”
“It wasn't easy to choose an overall winner from such an eclectic and exciting list, but ultimately the judges were unanimous”, they went on.
“Ezra Collective - the London five-piece made up of Femi Koleoso on drums, TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe-Armon Jones on keys, James Mollison on saxophone and Ife Ogunjobi on trumpet - are a living argument for putting the hours in, achieving musical brilliance, and tapping into a joyous spirit that ensures their album is as fun as it is impressive”.
“The British jazz renaissance of the past decade has been one of the most significant developments in modern music”, they concluded. “Now, 'Where I'm Meant To Be', with its touches of reggae, soul, Latin and Afrobeats, its call and response riffs and rhythmic intensity, is a landmark not only for jazz, but for contemporary music in general”.
Released in November last year, Ezra Collective’s second album ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’ features guest vocals from Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical, Emily Sandé and Nao.
Also shortlisted for this year’s Mercury were Arctic Monkeys, Fred Again, J Hus, Jessie Ware, Jockstrap, Lankum, Loyle Carner, Olivia Dean, Raye, Shygirl and Young Fathers.