Soul jazz legend Roy Ayers chats ahead of his Ipswich Corn Exchange gig
- Credit: Archant
Soul jazz legend Royer Ayers is coming to the Ipswich Corn Exchange this Saturday to perform some of his classic tunes. A lifelong fan, Ross Bentley puts Ayers’ musical achievements into perspective and speaks to him ahead of the show.
Back in the mid-1990s at the height of what was known as the Acid Jazz scene, I was a (relatively) young aficionado of black music, such as soul, rare groove, R&B and more latterly hip-hop.
For us there was a pantheon of great American artists who had set the bar high for others to follow: James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Donald Byrd all fell into this category along with a funky vibraphone player and singer called Roy Ayers whose back catalogue of tunes was and remains up there with the best. These include the disco floor-filler Running Away, the groovy upbeat Evolution to more jazz-funk inspired vibes such as Searchin’, Liquid Love and We Live in Brooklyn, Baby. Ayers’ collaborations with African funk firebrand Fela Kuti are another high point.
But Ayers’ signature tune – the one that lifts him to the top of the pile - is the all-time classic Everybody Loves the Sunshine – a four-minute, jazzy, soulful piece of brilliance, complete with sassy backing singers, that wonderfully evokes the headiness of a perfect sunny day, transporting you to Ayers’ native Los Angeles and the West Coast vibe.
I was lucky to see Ayers play a number of times during that period as he was regular on the Brighton and London Acid Jazz scene - taking centre stage behind his vibraphone – a type of xylophone but with more a vibrato, jazz effect.
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It goes without saying, then, that I am looking forward to reliving those days when Ayers comes to Ipswich on Saturday May 21 to perform with his band at the Corn Exchange as part of a month long tour of the UK.
And, at 75 years young, it would seem the jazz funk great is as keen as ever to bring the music to the people.
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“I’ve always had a wonderful reception from British audiences,” he says in a laid-back tone.
“I just keep coming back for more because the people motivate me and give me a wonderful feeling. I want the audience to just loosen up and feel the feeling, and enjoy all the classics I’ve made so popular from the 1960s through to today.”
It’s a mark of Ayers’ brilliance and longevity - he’s been producing music for more than 50 years - that he remains one of the most sampled musicians of all-time – loved by hip hop and soul artists alike - and continues to produce new music with some of the biggest names in the business.
“He continues: “It’s a compliment when people want to take music that I’ve made and play it – it’s a wonderful thing. And I also love creating new music and keeping it fresh with spontaneous vibrations. I have recently recorded with artists like Erika Badu and Alicia Keys.”
So, I ask, what can people expect on Saturday night?
“It will be a wonderful night where I will connect with the strength and belief of the people to create a highly enjoyable and positive vibe,” he adds.
That’s all I need to know Mr Ayers - I’ll be there to get down and pay homage.