July 21, 2024

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Perhaps the artist who best leveraged electronic jazz-soul and jazz-funk was Roy Ayers: Videos, Photos

By the late 1960s and very early ’70s, a growing number of young jazz musicians could see the writing on the wall. Rock was receiving massive media attention, growing crowds of young listeners were attending concerts and buying albums, and rock musicians were seeing ever-larger paydays in the studio and on stage.

To appeal to the sophisticated slice of the rock demographic, many jazz groups gave up acoustic instruments for electric counterparts and began playing a new form of jazz heavily influenced by hard rock and psychedelic mysticism.

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But not all jazz musicians determined to remain relevant rushed to hard rock. Some felt rock was too cold and reliant on volume and wailing rather than seduction and romance. Others felt it didn’t adequately reflect black culture. So instead, these musicians fused jazz with the newly emerging soul and funk being aired on late-night FM radio. Among the jazz artists exploring soul and funk were Grant Green, Larry Young, Freddie Hubbard, Idris Muhammad, Donald Byrd, the Crusaders and Herbie Hancock, to name a few.

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Perhaps the artist who best leveraged electronic jazz-soul and jazz-funk was Roy Ayers. Born in Los Angeles, the vibraphonist sang in his church choir and came up in the early 1960s as a protege of vibist Bobby Hutcherson. Ayers teamed with Herbie Mann in the mid-’60s, and in the early ’70s formed his band Ubiquity after leaving Atlantic Records for Polydor.

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Few artists have been more skilled at merging jazz improvisation with the chill of soul and the groove of funk than Ayers. In just a few short years on Polydor, Ayers’s group had created an entirely new genre, blending soul vocals, synthesizers and vibes with trippy beats and bass lines that are still sampled today. Ayers’s biggest hit was Everybody Loves the Sunshine in 1976, a song that still resonates today. The electric jazz-funk movement hasn’t quite received the same attention as jazz-rock fusion but certainly deserves better.

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A good introduction to Roy Ayers is Red, Black & Green (1973). His best-known album is Everybody Loves the Sunshine (1976).

Both and more are available at Spotify.

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Roy Ayers playing Daydreaming, from his Red, Black & Green album…

Ayers playing Mystic Voyage, from the album of the same name…

Ray Ayers Ubiquity playing Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Lifeline from the album of the same name…

Treasure from Ayers’s Naste album in 1995…

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