There’s a claim to be made that Ezra Collective’s You Can’t Steal My Joy is the most eagerly anticipated debut full-length by a UK artist for some time. The group’s popularity has exploded over these past couple of years. Since the release of breakout EP Juan Pablo: The Philosopher back in 2017 the band have won numerous awards, headlined festivals and played to thousands on tour. Group members like Joe Armon-Jones have become hot prospects in their own right, and the band have even performed at Quincy Jones’ birthday party. No pressure, then.
Of course, Ezra Collective rise above it all on You Can’t Steal My Joy. London’s wild new jazz sound - a scene that Ezra Collective have been an integral part of since day one - is the guiding principle here. This means that, while the group root themselves in learned harmony and instrumental chops, they also bring a huge range of different genres into play to give the record depth.
Take the run of ‘Red Whine’, ‘Quest For Coin’ and ‘Reason In Disguise’. The former sees Ezra Collective reaching to reggae, Ethio-jazz and dub - it’s the sort of graceful stylistic blend that only a band who really know what they’re doing can pull off. ‘Red Whine’ is followed by the club-ready ‘Quest For Coin’, an up-tempo dance tune that stans Moses Boyd and Rhythm Section International. After this they pull back and let Jorja Smith take centre-stage on the gorgeous neo-soul jam ‘Reason In Disguise’. These are three very disparate takes that are all made to feel natural by Ezra Collective’s controlled sound. A guest list that includes rapper Loyle Carner and London Afro-warriors KOKOROKO is further demonstration of You Can’t Steal My Joy’s rich variety.
Ezra Collective’s debut LP will probably define the direction of British jazz for the next few years. A celebration of diversity both in music and in life, You Can’t Steal My Joy is a record as righteous as its title suggests.