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Ezra Collective makes history as first jazz act to win the Mercury Prize

Ezra Collective win the 2023 Mercury Prize with their second studio album, Where I'm Meant To Be," at the awards show at the Eventim Apollo in London, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.
Ezra Collective win the 2023 Mercury Prize with their second studio album, Where I'm Meant To Be," at the awards show at the Eventim Apollo in London, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. Copyright Ian West/PA
Copyright Ian West/PA
By Jonny Walfisz
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Other nominees included Arctic Monkeys, Loyle Carner and Raye.

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Jazz quintet Ezra Collective have won the 2023 Mercury Prize for their second album ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’. The erroneously named collective (none of their names are actually Ezra) impressed the prestigious award’s judges to become the first jazz album to win.

The £25,000 (€29,000) prize celebrates the best British or Irish album of the last year. It’s one of the most respected awards for its regular recognition of upcoming British talent. Previous winners have included Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’, Pulp’s ‘Different Class’, Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in da Corner’, and last year’s winner Little Simz’s ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’.

This year’s nominees were once again stacked with some of the most exciting albums released across the British Isles. Arctic Monkeys became joint most-nominated act with Radiohead for their seventh album ‘The Car’. Fred Again, J Hus, Jessie Ware, Jockstrap, Lankum, Loyle Carner, Olivia Dean, Raye, Shygirl and Young Fathers were also nominated.

Ezra Collective have made history with their win as the first jazz album to take home the award. Typically, a jazz album is among those nominated but has never actually won before.

“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,” drummer Femi Koleoso said at the London award ceremony last night.

“This moment that we're celebrating right here is testament to good, special people putting time and effort into young people to play music,” Koleoso. “This is not just a result for Ezra Collective, or for UK jazz, but this is a special moment for every single organisation across the country, ploughing efforts and time into young people playing music.”

‘Where I’m Meant To Be’ is an expansive album that combines jazz, afrobeat, funk to create joyfully atmospheric songs. Featuring on the album is 12 Years a Slave director and Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen, 2022 Mercury Prize nominee Kojey Radical, as well as musicians Sampa the Great, Emeli Sandé, and Nao.

Since their debut album, 2019’s ‘You Can’t Steal My Joy’, Ezra Collective have built a reputation for energetic live shows, despite much of their career spent during the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’ was written during lockdown.

At the award ceremony in Hammersmith, many of the nominees performed, including rousing sets from Young Fathers, Raye and Jessie Ware, whose albums ‘Heavy Heavy’, ‘My 21st Century Blues’ and ‘That! Feels Good!’ were all on our list of Euronews’ best albums of 2023 so far.

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