Juan Pablo: The Philosopher is the Ezra Collective’s second offering of modern UK jazz, following the self-released suprise hit Chapter 7. The quintet burn through 4 original compositions and one cover (Sun Ra!) at breakneck speed, and it’s a refreshing, forward-thinking take on the harmonic and rhythmic breakthroughs of the jazz greats but without the stress of living up to or exceeding the expectations of stylistic innovations that haunted many of the great players of the 1980s and 90s. Like their contemporaries Yussef Kamaal and Sons Of Kemet, Ezra Collective’s contemporary jazz sound is informed by an upbringing spent surrounded by jungle, grime, pirate radio and hip-hop, but their roots and identity as part of the African diaspora loom largest on Juan Pablo, and the spirit of Fela Kuti courses through the entire record. Femi Koleoso’s drumming is enough to move the ass of any Tony Allen devotee. Pianist Joe Armon-Jones’ playing repeatedly recalls the work of Lonnie Liston Smith; first on the space-echoed opening trills of “The Philosopher,” and again on the hair-raising arpeggios that fill up “People In Trouble.” The entire unit plays together so tight, it’s as if it were their cosmic duty to make this record. On the penultimate track, James Mollison resets the vibe with half a minute of solo tenor before the crew launch into a stunning afrobeat rework of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place.” Originally released last fall, the EP quickly went out of print and is now changing hands for upwards of $70, so this repress is a crucial second chance if you missed it the first time around. Mixed by Floating Points and Matt Mysko.
- music label: Enter The Jungle Records 2018
reviewed by big dumb man 05/2018