Roy Ayers

Roy Ayers

 New York City, New York, USA
BandR&BJazz

Roy Ayers could very well be the best jazz/R&B artist you don’t know. In his 40-plus years as a vibraphonist, he has produced a string of soul and funk classics, like “We Live In Brooklyn Baby” and “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” that has arguably made him the second-most sampled musician in hip-hop, after James Brown. You may have heard snippets of his music in songs by 50 Cent protégé Tony Yayo (“Fake Love”) or A Tribe Called Quest (“Bonita Applebum”). But while the exposure of his extensive c

Biography

Began professional career in 1961, as a side man with various Los Angeles musicians, including Chico Hamilton and Teddy Edwards; first date as a bandleader, West Coast Vibes, 1963; toured and recorded with Herbie Mann, 1966-70; formed Ubiquity, 1970; toured regularly throughout U.S., Great Britain, and Japan, 1970- ; recording artist, Polydor Records, 1970-82; recording artist, Columbia records, 1984-87; recorded Love Will Save Day with Whitney Houston, 1987; recording artist, Ichiban Records, 1989-92; recorded and toured with Guru on Jazzmatazz project, 1993; accompanied Vanessa Williams on recording Sweetest Days, 1994; numerous samples on various recordings, 1990- .
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Perhaps acid jazz would have emerged even if Roy Ayers had never existed, but it certainly would have sounded different. Scores of DJs, hip-hoppers, acid jazzers, and others have incorporated samples of music created by Ayers into their own work, making his sound an integral part of these emerging musical forms. His status as the godfather of acid jazz, or jazz funk, or whichever label you prefer, represents a second life in the career of vibraphonist and composer Ayers, who first rocked American dance floors in the 1970s with such anthems as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Freaky Deaky." Twenty years later, Ayers is as ubiquitous in the dance clubs as he ever was.

Ayers was born on September 10, 1940, in Los Angeles, California. Thanks to the influence of his mother, a piano teacher, and his father, a trombone player, Ayers was a musical child. By the time he was five, he was banging out boogie-woogie licks on his mother's lap at the piano. His introduction to the vibraphone came at the age of six, when his parents took him to a Lionel Hampton concert. After the show, Hampton--one of the all time greats on the instrument--handed Ayers a pair of mallets, perhaps sealing the youngster's musical destiny with that simple gesture. Meeting Hampton again years later, Ayers regaled him with the story of how he had unknowingly shaped his future.

Before that destiny came to fruition, however, Ayers spent his formative years experimenting with a variety of other instruments. At nine, he taught himself to play the steel guitar. He spent his teens alternating between the flute, trumpet, and drums. He also sang in church choirs, an influence that could still be detected in his vocal style years later. It was not until he was 17 years old that Ayers finally got a chance to play the vibraphone, which he claims had been his favorite instrument all along. Within a year, vibes was his main instrument. After high school, Ayers enrolled at Los Angeles City College, but it was not long before his studies took a back seat to the pursuit of his dream to be a working professional musician.

By the early 1960s, Ayers was playing regularly with a number of local performers, including such fixtures on the Los Angeles jazz scene as Teddy Edwards, Chico Hamilton, and Jack Wilson. This experience soon gave Ayers the necessary confidence to become a band leader. His first opportunity to record in that capacity came in 1963, on a project called West Coast Vibes, released by United Artists. In 1966 Ayers, at the invitation of bassist Reggie Workman, sat in on a gig with Herbie Mann and his Quintet, at the Lighthouse, a prominent Los Angeles jazz club. Mann was so impressed with his work that he immediately made Ayers a permanent member of the group. Ayers toured and recorded with Mann for the next four years, a period that included the release of Mann's smash hit LP, Memphis Underground. During this stint, Ayers also recorded three solo albums--all produced by Mann: Daddy Bug, Virgo Red, and Stoned Soul Picnic.

The exposure he gained through his work with Mann eventually earned Ayers a following of his own. Now ready to strike out on his own, Ayers left the Mann group and moved to New York, where he quickly formed his own band, which he dubbed Ubiquity. Ubiquity did not have a stable lineup like a conventional band. It consisted instead of a constantly-shifting roster of musicians at various stages in their careers. The band included established pros like bassist Ron Carter and saxophonist Sonny Fortune; young performers destined for success, such as vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater; and lots of talented newcomers hoping they had found their big break. Ayers used Ubiquity to create a new genre that borrowed elements from jazz, funk, rock, soul, salsa, and whatever else he heard and liked, and then synthesized them into an appealing melange. Although some jazz fans criticized Ayers for producing music that could not be claimed authentically as either jazz or R&B, urban contemporary listeners took to it instantly. The band was quickly signed to the Polydor label.

The next dozen years represented an incredibly prolific period for Ayers and the various versions of Ubiquity. During that span, the group record

Discography

Selective Discography

* Virgo Vibes, Atlantic, 1967.
* Stone Soul Picnic, Atlantic, 1968.
* Daddy Bug, Atlantic, 1969.
* Roy Ayers: Ubiquity, Polydor, 1971.
* He's Coming, Polydor, 1972.
* Virgo Red, Polydor, 1973.
* Change Up the Groove, Polydor, 1974.
* A Tear to a Smile, Polydor, 1975.
* Red, Black and Green, Polydor, 1975.
* Mystic Voyage, Polydor, 1976.
* Vibrations, Polydor, 1976.
* Everybody Loves the Sunshine, Polydor, 1976.
* Lifeline, Polydor, 1977.
* Let's Do It, Polydor, 1978.
* You Send Me, Polydor, 1978.
* Step into Our Life, Polydor, 1978.
* Fever, Polydor, 1979.
* No Stranger to Love, Polydor, 1980.
* Africa, Center of the World, Polydor, 1981.
* Love Fantasy, Polydor, 1981.
* Feeling Good, Polydor, 1982.
* In the Dark, Columbia, 1984.
* You Might Be Surprised, Columbia, 1985.
* I'm the One (for Your Love Tonight), Columbia, 1987.
* Wake Up, Ichiban, 1989.
* Double Trouble, Ichiban, 1992.
* Evolution: The Polydor Anthology, Polydor, 1995.
* Naste, RCA, 1995.
* (With Herbie Mann) Memphis Underground (With Guru) Jazzmatazz, 1993.
* Hot (Live At Ronnie Scott’s) (Ronnie Scott's Jazz House) – 1996
* Spoken Word (AFI) – 1998
* Lots Of Love (Charly) – 1998
* Juice (Charly) – 1999
* Live At Ronnie Scott’s (DVD Audio) (Castle) – 2001
* "Our Time is Coming" (single with Masters at Work) (MAW Records)—2001
* For Café Après-midi (Universal Japan) – 2002
* "Good Vibrations" (single with Kerri Chandler) (Mad House Records)—2003
* Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 (Rapster) – 2004
* Mahogany Vibe (Rapster) – 2004
* Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 (Rapster) – 2005
* Virgin Ubiquity Remixed (Rapster) – 2006
* Perfection (Aim) – 2006
* Wake Up (Ichiban Records) - 2006
* Essential Vibes (Metro Music) - 2007
* Lifeline (GRP) - 2007
* Incontournables (Warner Music France) - 2008
* Everybody Loves the Sunshine [Vinyl] [Limited Edition, Import] (Universal Int'l) - 2008
* You Send Me (Dig) - 2008
* West Coast Vibes [Reissue] (Blue Note) - 2010
* Lots of Love [Import] (101 DISTRIBUTION) - 2010