Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Herbie Hancock, Barbican Hall, London ****

''It’s a second home,'' declared Herbie Hancock speaking about the Barbican as he scanned the hall challenging the audience to let him know whether they wanted the ''weird, crazy'' stuff he was about to offer up. ''Every audience wants that!'' He …

Published: 29 Jul 2023. Updated: 10 months.

''It’s a second home,'' declared Herbie Hancock speaking about the Barbican as he scanned the hall challenging the audience to let him know whether they wanted the ''weird, crazy'' stuff he was about to offer up. ''Every audience wants that!'' He smiled. In a show getting on for two hours without an interval he got more energetic as it wore on after what he called ''the hors d'oeuvres'' of an 'Overture' and the quintet were certainly burning throughout in extended passages. Just about running the width of the stage by the end - fellow octogenarian Joe Biden would be hard pressed to follow suit with or without a keytar in his hands - the band roared along thanks to the rocket fuelled propulsion provided by drummer Jaylen Petinaud more than 55 years Herbie’s junior.

Highlights included trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s arrangement of Herbie’s great friend Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’ and Herbie’s own classic ‘Actual Proof’. The leader perched at the Fazioli with Korg Kronos keys to the side as he alternated between the two, the great ex-Miles Davis player certainly exuded impish fun when he harnessed vocoder on 'Come Running To Me' from Sunlight an album he confessed hadn’t sold well and that critics were only so-so about. James Genus on bass guitar played a major role throughout and had a nice spot when he soloed late on improvising over his own real-time captured lines. Herbie had even more fun on keytar at the end joshing with guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke when the scale pushed higher and higher and Loueke had a pedal and a quirky squelch to match in an arm's race of special effects as the two masters sparred on 'Chameleon'. What larks. A spirited gig - Petinaud really powered everything hard and at times so funkily while Blanchard added a great many blistering touches that had both edge and bite. SG

Tags: Lives

Ezra Collective Mercury nomination is the latest accolade for the jazz and grime crossover five-piece

Ezra Collective - left-to-right: Ife Ogunjobi, James Mollison, TJ Koleoso, Joe Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso. Press pic News that the Ezra Collective are in the Mercury nomination short list this year is the latest accolade for the London who reach …

Published: 28 Jul 2023. Updated: 10 months.

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Ezra Collective - left-to-right: Ife Ogunjobi, James Mollison, TJ Koleoso, Joe Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso. Press pic

News that the Ezra Collective are in the Mercury nomination short list this year is the latest accolade for the London who reach parts of a wider non-jazz consciousness quite credibly incidentally that few UK jazz acts can dream of. With a jazz act MOBO under their belt from last year it isn't hard to understand why the plaudits keep coming given the reach of what they do. Now signed beyond the bedrock of the jazz village to the Fontaines DC and Beth Orton-rostered label Partisan Records the AfroCuban exuberant trumpet-dotted flavour to 'Victory Dance' on Where I'm Meant to Be as our review on release last year had it shows a buoyant mood in which pianist Joe Armon-Jones underpins the horn line in the manner of Chucho Valdés and breaks out to solo before the horns in unison come back.

The London band borne out of Tomorrow's Warriors are led by drummer Femi Koleoso with TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, Ife Ogunjobi on trumpet and James Mollison on tenor saxophone. Influenced by grime, hip-hop, Afrobeat, jazz and more they interpreted Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple classic 'Footprints' on 2020's best-selling various artists compilation album, Blue Note Re:imagined. Featured guests on Where I'm Meant To Be, include widely adored hitmaker Emeli Sandé on 'Siesta' the track begun by the expectant din of people's voices and Sandé sounding soulful with Armon-Jones on keys busy and circling in with percussion to keep the pace up. The lyric is however a fairly routine homily advising ''take your time'' and resilience. Rapper Sampa the Great, Kojey Radical in conversation a little with the late Tony Allen on the thumping Afrobeat livener 'No Confusion' riffing off Gil Scott-Heron lyrically also feature.

Words from the great film and tv director Steve McQueen are at the radical heart of the album who talks about black music ''breaking through'' and ''within the unrecognisable there is the familar.'' There's plenty of variety - the strings soaked 'Never the Same Again' with a beautiful piano line and some of the best horn playing on the album is my overall pick and shows a lot of maturity and serenity away from the more party friendly numbers. The reggae feeling on 'Ego Killah' is also a big plus and including Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile' ubiquitous as a cover works well in context, certainly the sentimental choice. 'Belonging' has one of Femi's best grooves and the sax line is very elemental. Certainly Ezra Collective can do tender well and you get that here even on one of the less essential tracks the Nao vocal feature 'Love in Outer Space'. There is a lot of depth and ideas that contextualise jazz in the bigger picture juxtaposing all their influences and bouncing of all of these to make their Trojan Horse jazz imaginings out there in the glare of the wider music industry marketplace something fresh and appealing.

  • Ezra Collective appear at the We Out Here festival in August