Roy Ayers is, without doubt, one of the seminal artists of the past century who has helped define both R&B and jazz, The Los Angeles born vibraphonist began his love of music as a child, likely inspired by his parents: his mother was a local piano instructor and his father a trombonist. He was playing piano as a young child and naturally picked up multiple instruments such as flute, trumpet and drums. Ultimately, he gravitated to the vibraphone, and developed into a legend on that instrument.
Ayers started recording as a sideman in the early 60s, landing a spot working with legendary jazz flutist Herbie Mann. By the end of that decade, he stepped out on his own, forming Roy Ayers Ubiquity and becoming a true pioneer in the merging of R&B and jazz. His broad vision took shape throughout the early 70s, coming to fruition on his smash 1976 album, Everybody Loves The Sunshine.
During the late 70s and early 80s, Ayers continued to perform with his band – scoring hits on the soul and dance charts such as the top ten “Don’t Stop The Feeling” - while also producing a number of other artists. He also toured the world repeatedly, finding inspiration in the sounds of Africa that shaped his own music.
Ayers’ music became influential to the hip-hop and house communities, but nowhere was it revered more than in the generation of neo-soul artists that emerged in the 1990s, leading Ayers to be dubbed the “Godfather of Neo-soul.” He worked with many of that decade’s greats, including Mary J. Blige, A Tribe Called Quest and Erykah Badu.
Ayers has continued to tour regularly to large audiences, even as he approaches his 80th year.
By Chris Rizik