It’s not often you get to say that you’ve seen a living legend play but it’s definitely a term that can be applied to Roy Ayers. He’ll be 74 this year and has been releasing albums since 1963, so he has a huge canon of work to draw from and has always been at the forefront of Jazz Funk, Jazz Fusion and the melding of Jazz and Hip Hop through the sampling of his work.
The venue is packed and Roy Ayers is given a huge cheer when he takes to the stage. He’s all smiles and looks fit and well as he acknowledges the crowds’ reception. His band tonight is made up of a drummer, five-string bass player, keyboard player and male backing vocalist. Ayers himself is playing a Korg keyboard that sounds like a vibraphone rather than playing an actual vibraphone with mallets but it sounds pretty much exactly the same to my ears.
Roy Ayers did release an amazing amount of great tunes in the Seventies and the appreciative crowd are kept moving with his choice selection. The band launch into the well known songs early into the ninety minute set, so we get to hear the brilliant “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (sampled by Common and Dr. Dre) and it prompts an immediate sing-along. Amazing to think that it was released in 1976 and still sounds great, the hall mark of a true classic.
Other greats like “Running Away” (sampled by A Tribe Called Quest) from 1977 with it’s catchy “do be do run, run, run” hook also go down well as does the timeless “Love Will Bring Us Back Together” from 1979. They also play “Red, Black And Green” (sampled by X Clan) from the 1973 album of the same name and “Searching” (sampled by Pete Rock) from the “Vibrations” album released in 1976 which expands into a soulful instrumental from both Roy and his Rhodes playing keyboardist. When they play “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” (sampled by Mos Def) Ayers playfully changes the lyrics to “We live in Brighton, we shop in Tescos”.
The rest of the set is filled with funky instrumentals, all the band members getting a chance to solo and show their high standard of musicianship. Pretty much all his well known songs have been used by Hip Hop artists and this ninety minute set was a showcase of that fact. A great show filled with lots of memorable songs.