Ezra Collective Scoops Up The Mercury Prize 2023 – The First Jazz Act Ever

By Martha Davies

9 months ago

The big names – plus the artists you might not know


The Mercury Prize, the UK’s most prestigious music awards, returned last night, with the winner picked from a star-studded shortlist. And the winner is… Ezra Collective, a five-piece jazz band whose 2022 album, Where I’m Meant to Be, beat out the likes of Fred Again, Arctic Monkeys and Jessie Ware. Here’s everything you need to know about the worthy winners, plus a look back at the nominees.

Ezra Collective Wins The Mercury Prize 2023

 

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Who Are Ezra Collective?

Ezra Collective is a five piece London-based jazz band, formed of Femi Koleoso, TJ Koleoso, Ife Ogunjobi, James Mollison and Joe Armon-Jones. Having met at Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz programme, the quintet has been releasing music under the name ‘Ezra Collective’ since 2016. The band’s 2019 album You Can’t Steal My Joy features fellow British artists Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner, and they beat out the latter’s album, Hugo, to scoop up the 2023 Mercury Prize with their sophomore LP, Where I’m Meant To Be.

 

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What Is The Mercury Prize?

The Mercury Prize is an award honouring musicians and producers in the UK and Ireland. The aim of the Prize is not only to champion both well-known and emerging artists and bring their work to a wider audience, but also to provide an exciting overview of the new music released each year. 

Perhaps the most unique element of the Prize relates to its lack of categories: judges select 12 Albums of the Year across a range of contemporary musical genres and choose one winner from this list. Every shortlisted artist is given a specially-commissioned Album of the Year trophy, while the overall winner receives a special additional trophy and a cash prize of £25,000. The 2023 Awards Ceremony took place on 7 September 2023 at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, with Ezra Collective bagging the prize.

The 2023 Mercury Prize Nominations

  • The Car by Arctic Monkeys
  • Where I’m Meant to Be by Ezra Collective
  • Actual Life 3 by Fred Again
  • Beautiful and Brutal Yard by J Hus
  • That! Feels Good! by Jessie Ware
  • I Love You Jennifer B by Jockstrap
  • False Lankum by Lankum
  • Hugo by Loyle Carner
  • Messy by Olivia Dean
  • My 21st Century Blues by Raye
  • Nymph by Shygirl
  • Heavy Heavy by Young Fathers 

With their standout record The Car, Arctic Monkeys received their fifth Mercury Prize nomination, meaning they are now on par with Radiohead as the most-nominated act in the Prize’s history – although Radiohead haven’t won the Prize, while Arctic Monkeys claimed it in 2006 for their album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

J Hus, Jessie Ware, Loyle Carner and Young Fathers have also received previous recognition at the awards, with Young Fathers receiving the Prize in 2014 for their debut album Dead. 2023 newcomers, meanwhile, include Jockstrap, Olivia Dean, Shygirl and Raye. 

Who Are The 2023 Mercury Prize Judges?

The 12 albums of the year are selected by an independent panel of judges which usually includes music experts, presenters and producers, as well as musicians themselves. Nominations are submitted by record labels, and the judges usually receive around 230 nominations every year. The Chair of the judging team this year is Jeff Smith, and the panel includes:

  • Anna Calvi (Musician, Songwriter & Composer)
  • Danielle Perry (Broadcaster & Writer) 
  • Hannah Peel (Musician, Songwriter & Composer)
  • Jamie Cullum (Musician & Broadcaster)
  • Jamz Supernova (Broadcaster & DJ)
  • Jeff Smith (Head of Music, 6 Music & Radio 2) 
  • Lea Stonhill (Music Programming Consultant) 
  • Mistajam (Songwriter, DJ & Broadcaster)
  • Phil Alexander (Creative Director, Kerrang!/Contributing Editor, Mojo)
  • Sian Eleri (Broadcaster & DJ)
  • Tshepo Mokoena (Music Writer & Author)
  • Will Hodgkinson (Chief Rock & Pop Critic, The Times)

Three Artists To Get To Know

Olivia Dean

 

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Walthamstow-born Olivia Dean became known for her standout singles boasting a distinctly mellow R&B sound alongside pertinent, self-reflective lyrics. She has been nominated for her debut album, Messy, which builds on her previous work to offer a collection of vibrant, jazz-infused tracks featuring jubilant production and spectacular storytelling – the closer, ‘Carmen’, tells the story of her grandmother’s migration to England from Jamaica, celebrating the Windrush generation.

Ezra Collective

British jazz quintet Ezra Collective are recognised for their innovative reimagining of the jazz genre. Their latest record, Where I’m Meant To Be, is a colourful fusion of jazz, Afrobeats and reggae. 

Raye

 

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After leaving behind her previous record label, Polydor, Raye has seen enormous success this year as an independent artist, with her viral hit ‘Escapsim’ and her subsequent album, My 21st Century Blues. The project is bursting with surprises, though the common thread between tracks is most certainly her slick production and sharp lyricism. If you’re after an utterly exquisite and dizzyingly powerful female voice, give this album a go.

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