Passion in the Park

Poppy Woods and Oli Falcon found magic at Brockwell Park music festival Cross the Tracks from local up-and-comers, homespun heroes and a tour de force from California.

One particularly poignant moment of Cross the Tracks was, somewhere towards the first half of Ezra Collective, when they paused to thank Lambeth council and other local community organisations, like Tomorrow’s Warriors, for their instrumental role in getting them to where they are today. Today, they are in the middle of a summer tour of Europe, which will include Glastonbury in a few weeks’ time. This performance, they said, felt like coming home and the feeling of joy and passion was tangible for the audience and band alike as they jumped over the barriers and played among the audience. I have loved Ezra Collective since their debut LP in 2019, their take on the essence of jazz is truly something to behold. There’s something transcendentally euphoric about seeing bassist TJ Koleoso, saxophonist James Mollison, and trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi give virtuosic, charged call and responses in the midst of a dense crowd – never missing a beat (unintentionally, at least) – their fans bopping around them chanting ‘Hey! … Hey!…Hey!…Hey!…’ It felt like we were transported into a scene from the birth of modern jazz in the late 40s – pure expressive, magical union between artist and listener. If this is the future of the genre, then I think I am undeniably and faithfully a fan of contemporary jazz. This was a good realisation, as Cross the Tracks is hailed as London’s number 1 Jazz, Funk and Soul festival.

After stopping off to see some of the bigger names, Ravyn Lenae and Kelis – both excellent in well-polished performances, it was in some of the lesser-known artists where we found real beauty and heart. Bina, another South London musician at the start of her career, had us enraptured by her beautifully crafted lyrics and neo-soul R and B. Muva of Earth, another emerging London talent, captivated fans at the Kaboose tent, the stage for artists breaking through from the underground to the mainstream. Her sound can best be described as a psychedelic infusion of soul, alternative Jazz, and cosmic experimentalism, it felt otherworldly in the middle of what was already an otherworldly day.

After a brief boogie at Kelis, who I can only imagine closed on ‘Milkshake’, we joined the surprisingly chill (for a headline act) crowd at the main-stage anticipating a set from Nx Worries, the superduo comprising of the already legendary progressive hip-hop producer Knxwledge and the inimitable Anderson .Paak. New, exclusive tracks of joyful, groovy funk-soul-jazz-rap fusion washed over the crowds, captivated by Anderson .Paak, who came out on stage wearing a giant black, fuzzy top hat which would make Charlie Chaplin blush in shame.

Our Cross the Tracks had comprised mostly of local up-and-comers and homespun heroes, but to end on a tour de force from California was fitting – Brixton brews plenty of magic within its own loose borders but has always opened its arms to visitors and joys from the whole planet over. This year’s Cross the Tracks, in this regard, perfectly embodied the soul, if you’ll excuse the pun, of Brixton.