To be dubbed “The Godfather of Neo Soul” is some feat, but few can argue against such a title befitting the legend that is Roy Ayers. Up there with the most influential funk, soul and jazz artists of all time, Ayers has spent over half a century crafting some of the most beautiful compositions that American jazz has seen, famed for his multi-instrumentation talents and in particular, his work on the vibraphone.
Having masterminded such a wealth of mesmeric music over the years, Roy Ayers has produced plenty of music that we should all spend time getting to know, but we thought we’d get things underway by choosing five of our favourites. Time to sit back and take it all in...
Everybody Loves The Sunshine
The title of this track is just about as close to a universal truth as you can get, and the music that it is attached to is nearly as universal in its appeal. One of those tracks that either you like or you haven’t heard, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” is a trip through happy memories of lazy childhood summer evenings, and what could be more pleasant than that?
Love Will Bring Us Back Together
Proving that Roy does funk as well as anyone else you’re going to see on this summer’s festival circuit, “Love Will Bring Us Back Together” throws together jerky guitars, clapped snares and sultry vocals, and that’s a recipe that rarely fails to get feet moving.
Just when you’re thinking music can’t get any smoother, a Justo Almario saxophone solo elevates this to a completely frictionless land. One of the most slippery songs on the divine Vibrations album of 1976, “Searching” is absolutely seeping with soul.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Roy Ayers - 2000 Blacks Got To Be Free
You often hear talk of matches ‘made in heaven’, but spend an afterlife scouting angelic pairs and you’d still struggle to beat this one from down here on earth, which saw Roy join with the undisputed king of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti. Featuring all of the triumphant brass, interacting percussive rhythms, chanted vocals and absolutely irresistible grooves that came to define Fela’s politically driven jams, “2000 Blacks Got To Be Free” is up there with the two artists’ greatest individual works, and well worth nineteen minutes of your day.
There’s some groove on this one, which was co-written by American keyboardist Edwin Birdsong. Featuring no shortage of beach-bar vibra melodies and the beautiful vocals of Sylvia Cox, Marguerite Arthurton and the song’s two producers, “Running Away” is a beautiful stroll through interwoven vocal lines, upbeat percussion and funky bass licks. Music that feels like the warm sun on the back of your neck.
You might be lucky enough to catch Roy Ayers in the UK this summer, with gigs lined up at Sunfall Festival in London, The Wardrobe in Leeds and Moovin Festival in August. Sunfall takes place on Saturday 12th August at Brockwell Park, with the Leeds show following on Friday 25th - the same day that Moovin Festival kicks off in Stockport’s Etherow Country Park.
Photo courtesy of Albumism