Joe Armon-Jones aims to keep it low key after awards success

 Joe Armon-Jones hopes to continue the push against elitist jazz after scooping multiple Jazz FM Awards last month.

The Ezra Collective keyboardist claimed two gongs with the band at April’s awards show, in the highly sought-after ‘UK Jazz Act of the Year’ and ‘Live Experience of the Year’ categories — with both decided by public vote.

South London-based Armon-Jones also found time to release his debut album Starting Today on May 4.

In the face of so much success, Joe, 25, said: “I just want to enjoy it and appreciate their gratitude and stuff, but not get too caught up in it.

“I like people as a community. But it was wicked, a real treat.”

Despite his solo project, he remains fully committed to his band.

He said: “I wouldn’t see it as a ‘going-solo’ thing.

“I’ve always made my own music, and this is just me putting it out there, just showing people some of the stuff I make when I’m not in other bands, basically,” he said.

Bringing afrobeat, soul and hip-hop to jazz, Ezra Collective has been carving out their own path in the jazz world ever since they first formed seven years ago.

The five-piece group started forming during their time at Tomorrow’s Warriors, an organisation dedicated to jazz education in south east London.

Joe said: “When I first came to London it was more looked down upon to play other genres in Jazz.

“There was slightly more of a purist attitude to playing just swing, for example.

“I don’t know who the hard jazz musicians are anymore.

“I used to but they seem to have retreated back in to the scene and now they’re all playing hip hop and stuff.”

Not only is jazz itself becoming more diverse, Joe said that audiences are becoming more varied too.

Harking back to Ezra Collective’s Ronnie Presents gig at Islington Assembly Hall, which garnered their Jazz FM Award for ‘Live Experience of the Year,’ Joe said: “It was all different kinds of people.

“Young people and old people, white people and black people.

“It wasn’t like there was a specific type in the audience.

“It kind of worries me when I look out into the crowd and you see that you’re only attracting guys or something.

“We want just everybody coming down, that’s the nice thing about it.

“It doesn’t feel like an exclusive thing for Ezra: it’s accessible for everyone.”

But for all jazz’s current inclusivity, its reputation hasn’t always been one of open arms, Joe added.

“In the past some jazz musicians have treated it as a kind of closed thing, like a ‘This is our intellectual music that you don’t understand so you can’t come and watch it.’

“I think that’s not helped jazz so much.

“But there are definitely good musicians out there that open it up to the public, that try and get people involved.

“It’s all to make people dance at the end of the day.”

With an upcoming Ezra Collective tour through Austria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Belgium in September, as well as his own solo tour which will be taking him to World Wide Festival in France among other exciting places, Joe has plenty to be getting on with.

But asked whether he was nervous, Joe said: “I’m actually looking forwards to just making some more music.”


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