Ezra Collective’s Where I’m Meant to Be won the Mercury Prize on Thursday (Sept. 7), making the London jazz quintet the first jazz act to win that prestigious award. The Mercury Prize celebrates the best of British and Irish music across a range of contemporary music genres. This year’s ceremony was held at Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London.

Accepting the award, drummer Femi Koleoso said, “This is not just a result for Ezra Collective, or for UK jazz, but this is a special moment for every single organization across the country, ploughing efforts and time into young people playing music.”

Where I’m Meant to Be, Ezra Collective’s second studio album, was written and recorded in lockdown. But rather than reflect the isolation of the COVID-19 era, the album has been described by BBC as “a joyous celebration of community, positivity and friendship.”

The album was produced by the band and Riccardo Damian, and features a diverse roster of musicians, including Sampa the Great, Kojey Radical, Emeli Sandé and Nao, as well as filmmaker Steve McQueen.

Where I’m Meant to Be reached No. 24 on the Official U.K. Albums chart, a strong showing for a jazz album. On this side of the pond, it debuted and peaked at No. 15 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

The album was nominated for best jazz record at the 2022 Libera Awards. But it draws on several other genres, including grime, salsa and reggae.

Speaking to BBC News after being announced as winners, Koleoso explained: “We’re the shuffle generation of music, we listen to some Beethoven, and then 50 Cent comes on straight after, and then Little Simz comes on just after that. And that kind of influences the way we approach music. So, there are no rules. We love jazz, but at the same time we love salsa too, so why not try and get that in there?”

The other albums in contention for the top prize were Arctic Monkeys’ The Car, Fred again.’s Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022), J Hus’ Beautiful and Brutal Yard, Jessie Ware’s That! Feels Good!, Jockstrap’s I Love You Jennifer B, Lankum’s False Lankum, Loyle Carner’s hugo, Olivia Dean’s Messy, RAYE’s My 21st Century Blues, Shygirl’s Nymph and Young Fathers’ Heavy Heavy.

Broadcaster Lauren Laverne hosted the ceremony, which featured live performances from nine of the shortlisted artists, including Jessie Ware and RAYE.

Last year’s Mercury Prize winner was London rapper Little Simz for her fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.

Paul Grein
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