One of the most visible and winning jazz vibraphonists of the 1960s and an R&B bandleader in the 1970s and ’80s, Roy Ayers’ reputation is now that of one of the prophets of acid jazz, a man decades ahead of his time. With his R&B work, Ayers created the blueprint for the shuffling hip-hop groove that became ubiquitous on acid jazz records, and his music has been heavily sampled by the hip-hop crowd. His vibraphone playing has always been rooted in hard bop, but it his his songwriting and funky, smooth vocals that give him an iconic status in the hip-hop world.
Growing up in a musical family, Ayers got his start in the West Coast Jazz scene, working with artists like Jack Wilson, Teddy Edwards, Chico Hamilton, and Hampton Hawes. His four year stint with flutist Herbie Mann increased his exposure in the jazz community extensively, and opened up new directions for Ayers to take his music.
After four years under Mann’s wing, Ayers left the group in 1970 to form the Roy Ayers Ubiquity, an R&B-jazz-rock band influenced by electric Miles Davis and the Herbie Hancock Sextet. As the decade wore on, the Ubiquity gradually shed its jazz component in favor of R&B/funk and disco, and achieved great commercial success.
Recent decades have found Ayers collaborating with Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, and his demand as a songwriter and producer has increased. Now one of the standard bearers of the acid jazz/R&B-jazz movement, Ayers continues to find ways to move his music forward.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“His mellow, unconventional, jazzy and repetitive grooves, infused with human sentiment, are frequently irresistible.” -BBC Music