Roy Ayers
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Roy Ayers

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The best kept secret in music


"Frank Chapman - Roy Ayers Interview"

Musicians, like all artist and scientists, have in common what John. A Wheeler called "A dream-and-drive spirit, a bulldog tenacity of purpose, and an openness to try any route to the summit." Also, like good mountaineers they always climb to the rough side of the mountain.

Roy Ayers, the musician, the artist searching for the sunshine, driven by an intense loning to embrace the essence and beauty of life in a song; caught up in the alternating rhythm of confidence and exhaustion, finally emerges and stands in the candit light of truth, a mature artist refined by the march of time and crowned by the genius of his people.

Who was this seeker of perfection caught in the web of rhyme and rhythm? How did he come to be switched by the sound of music? Where did he learn to play so well? Who were his mentors? Where were hsi achievements?

In this recent interview with Roy Ayers on his new CD release Mahogany Vibe I had an opportunity to raise these questions.

I asked Roy why this album at this time?

Roy Ayers: I think music all the time. But this time I think Ive been given a new opportunity to work with new and exciting people and map out new terrains in music. I'm talking about Erykah Badu and Betty Wright. I have found a real soul-connection with these a sisters, and I am very deligthed that they have nominated me the father of what they call Neo-Soul... They tell me that I have inspired people like Eric Benet and Mary J. Blidge just to mention two different styles.

What is Neo-Soul?

Well you know people are always defining and re-defining music. For instance, my style of playing has been characterized as smooth jazz and acid jazz. I listen as I play and I'm not caught up in defining the type of music I play. In other words other are more discerning than me when it comes to defining music have called what I do 'neo soul' and that's cool with me... You know its all about changing really, and being mulit-versatile. I'm not imprisoned within any particular style or category of music. I grew up in the be-bop culture or what people today call classic jazz. I've played with great artists like Hampton Hawes, Leroy Vinegar, Harold Land, Pheneas Newborm, Joe Henderson, Herbie Bancock, Buster Williams, Grady Tate and other. I toured Japan with Chico Hamilton in 1996 and shortly thereafter played and recorded with Herbie Mann. And I had very profound spiritual experience with the late Fela Kuti, Nigeria's finest. Working with him was not only exciting it also put me into intimate contact with my African roots. All these artists enhance my ability as an artist and their sound became my sound. But as I said earlier I am versatile so I expanded into concepts of working with Rick James and Stanley Clarke. When I put out the CD 'Smooth Jazz' a few years back I couldn't get my album played over so-called smooth jazz stations. In Chicago V103 radio station played my smooth jazz album but the jazz stations would not play it. So you don't always know who you're making that soul connection with. I remember seeing Miles Davis at Radio City before he died. The Ehispers came on first and to my greatest surprise they played tribute to Miles by singing "Round Midnight". That was the name of Miles Davis' album when he first bought out John Coltrane. Damn! That was touching You never know because 'soul' has no musical geographical or racial boundaries.

Are you explaining your transition from jazz, to R&B, to neo-soul?

'I don't think I'm really so unique.If every black person looked at their life they would quickly discover that they have been influenced by every type of music prevalent in America...what we call 'soul' has been around a long time. It comes out of a particular culture that is african in origin, bu influenced by 250 years of slavery, as well as other forms of racial oppression. When it comes to dealing with people of the dominant culture, often it seems cold and heartless and so 'soul' has been for us the heart of a heartless land enbedded in our struggles for human dignity and respect in spite of the odds against us.

'And I guess tha the true beauty of music is that it conencts people in that it carries a messge and we, the musicians, are the messengers. I am versatile because I want my message to reach all people. I have always played 'soul' music.

From where I sit, a curious observer, a devoted fan and a llongtime friend. I have mostly heard and gratefully seen Roy Ayers work over these forty-odd years with remarkable energy and passion. But I have never seen a tired face, a dismal countenanceor heard a cynical comment on the follies of humankind. Roy has always shown a unique talent for playing the right note at the right time in the right place, and even it's a blue note, it has a happy and humorous twist. And he earned his right from the very best, from the musical heroes and heroines of the last century. At the golden age of 62 we see him on the slipery slope with the youth and I think to myself; he no longer belongs to any age group, to any defined category of music, but like all the icons, past and present, he belongs to the friends of the future.
- Frank Chapman


West Coast Vibes
1963, united Artists

Virgo Vibes
1967 Atlantic Records

Stoned Soul Picnic
1968 Atlantic Records

Daddy Bug
1969 Atlantic Records

1970 Polydor Records

He's Comin'
1972 Polydor Records

Ubiquity, Live@ Montreux
1972 Polydor (Japan)

Virgo Red
1973 Polydor Records

1973 Polydor Records

Change Up the Groove
1974 Polydor Records

Tear to A Smile
1975 Polydor Records

Mystic Voyage
1975 Polydor Records

Red, Balck & Green
1975 Polydor Records

Daddy Bug & Friends
1976 Atlantic Records

1976 Polydor Records

Everybody Loves the Sunshine
1976 Polydor Records

1977 Polydor Records

Star Booty
1978 Elektra Records

Let's Do It
1978 Polydor Records

You Send Me
1978 Polydor Records

Step Into Our Life
1978 Polydor Records

1979 Polydor Records

The Best of Roy Ayers
1979 Polydor Records

No Strange to Love
1980 Polydor Records

Love Fantasy
1980 Polydor Records

Prime Time
1980 Polydor Records

Africa, Center of the World
1981 Polydor Records

Feeling Good
1982 Polydor Records

Lots of Love
1983 Uno Melodic

In the Dark
1984 CBS Records

You Might be Surprised
1985 CBS Records

I'm the One
1987 CBS Records

Drive (Lot's of Love Re-Issue)
1988 Ichiban Records

Wake Up
1989 Ichiban Records

Roy Ayers Rare - 1
1989 Polydor Records

Fast Money Live @ Ronnie Scott's
1990 Essential

Searchin Live @Ronnie Scott's
1991 RSJH

Hot (Live @ Ronnie Scott's)
1998 RSJH

Double Trouble
1992 Uno Melodic

Good Vibrations Live @ Ronnie Scott's
1993 RSJH

King of Vibes
1993 Polydor (Japan)

Shinning Symbol
1993 Polydor Records

Get On Up Get On Down
1993 Polydor Records

1993 Connoisseur

Essential Groove Live @ Ronnie Scott's
1994 RSJH

1995 Polydor Records

1995 BMG Records

Ubiquity Live @ Montreux (re-issue)
1996 Verve Records

Best of Roy Ayers
1997 Polydor Records

The Collection
1998 Connoisseur

Spoken Word
1998 AFI CD's

The Story of Uno Melodic
1999 Charly

Lots of Love (re-issue)
1999 Charly

1999 Charly

Smooth Jazz
1999 AFI CD's

2000 AFI CD's

Essential Vibes
2002 Metro Music/Charly

For Cafe Apres Midi
2002 Universl (Japan)

Destination Motherland
2003 Universal

2003 AFI CD's

Mahogany Vibe
2003 AFI CD's


Feeling a bit camera shy


Roy Edward Ayers, Jr. was born in Los Angerles, CA on September 10, 1940. He comes by his affinity with music naturally, as his mother Ruby Ayers was a schoolteacher and local piano instructor and his father Roy Sr., a sometimes-parking attendant and a trombonist. Roy began to demonstrate his musical aptitude by the tender age of five, by which time he was playing boogie woogie tunes on the piano. He turned to the steel guitar by age of nie, had stints during his teens playing flute, trumpet and drums before embracing the vibes as his instrument of choice.

PErhaps Roy's karmic destiny as a vibraphonist was influenced by his parents' decision to allow him to attend a concert featuring the great Lionel Hampton's Big Band. During Hampton's customary stroll down the aidle to thank his audience for attending, he notice an ecstatic five-year old boy. So impressed was "Hamp" the child's ebullience he walked over and presented young Roy Ayers Jr. with the gift of a lifetime- a pair of vibe metals. During Roy's adolescence, although his parent's reqiored that his schoolwork remain his primary focus, his mother managed to fit in piano lessons, which served to enhance his public school education. In addition to Roy's involvement withvarious instruments, he also san in the church choir. Then, at seventeed years of age, his parents presented him with a set of vibes and the rest as they say, is history.

Roy began at first to study independently, then eventually discovered that Bobby Hutchersom, a rising vibraphonist, lived in his neighborhood, and subsequently he began to work under Bobby's tutelage. Their relationship as friends and musicians blossomed, with regular meetings between the two to collaborate and practice. During this period, Roy went on to form the very first group of which he was the leader, while a student of harmony at Jefferson High School. Appropriately enough, he first named the group the Jefferson Combo, later re-naming the group Latin Lyrics. After graduation from Jefferson High, Roy attended Los Angeles City College where he studied advanced music theory.

By 1961 Roy had become a well-rounded, full-fledged professional musician and as is customary in nurturing African-American households, at twenty-one the keys to the door. As the adage goes, if you are blessed, when one door closes another door opens. Fortunately for Roy, he had just begun to receive his musical blessings, as early in his career, he collaborated and performed with the liked of Chico Hamilton, Teddy Edwards, Jack Wilson, Phineas Newborn and Gerald Wilson. Shortly thereafter, ROy made his recording debut with Curtis Amy, a high regarded saxophonist,, with whom he recorded "Way Down" and "Trippin on Through". In 1962, he was addorded the opportunity to appear before the biggest audience of his young the Las Vegas Jazz Festival.

Roy, now evolving into a composer and arranger as well as a greatly sought after performer, met and developed a relationship with one of the jazz world's leading authors and producers, the noted Leonard Feather. His alliance with Fether let to Roy's first recording contract with none other tha United Artists, one of the leading record labels of the day. His debut album "West Coast Vibes" was produced by Leonard Feather and fetured an impressive array of talent; Roy Ayers on vibes, Curtis Amy, tenor saxophone; Jack Wilson, piano; Bill Plummer, bass; Victor Gaskin, bass; Kenny Dennis and Tony Bazley on drums. The album received high accolades in the jazz world.

The "Roy Ayers sound" was gaining popularity...bookings throughout the United States, as well as noted musicians who sought out Roy Ayers to collaborate on their own projects, as well as his own soon became the norm. One of the musicians who reached out to Roy during this period, was none other than famed jazz flutist Herbie Mann. Herbie needed an immediate replacement for a gig at the Lighthouse Club in Los Angeles. Roy made the gig, the crowd went wild and a new musician alliance was formed...the Roy Ayers - Herbie Mann collaboration lasted for four years, with Roy touring with Herbie Mann for Atlantic Records. The next three years brought the release of "Virgo Vibes" (1967) and "Stoned Soul Picnic" (1969) arranged by William Fisher, all critical and commercial successes.

The 1970s found Roy embarking upon a long and fruitful relationship with Polydor REcords, where Roy, commited to the search for and exploration of new musical concepts, began to incorporate "wah wah" and "fuzz" tones in his vibes. It was during this period he formed the group Ubiquity. The term Ubiquity (from the Latin) means the state or capacity of being, or seeming to be, everywhere at the same time. Roy Avers, obviously took his group's name to heart for the Roy Ayers sound was virtually imnipresent. As musical genres changed in scope and definition, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, pop and disco each fought for a niche with the public and th