Roy Ayers Biography

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10 September 1940, Los Angeles, California, USA. A popular jazz vibraphonist and vocalist, Ayers reached the peak of his commercial popularity during the mid-70s and early 80s, crossing over into the mainstream charts. He is also justly celebrated as an important influence on the latter decade’s acid-jazz movement.

Ayers played piano as a child and took an interest in the vibes after meeting Lionel Hampton. In high school he formed his first group, the Latin Lyrics, and in the early 60s began working professionally with flautist/saxophonist Curtis Amy. Ayers’ first album under his own name was West Coast Vibes on United Artists Records, a 1963 recording session which featured Amy. He also worked with Chico Hamilton, Hampton Hawes and Herbie Mann, with whom he first gained prominence between 1966 and 1970. After recording three albums for Atlantic Records in the late 60s, Ayers formed Roy Ayers Ubiquity and signed to Polydor Records, incorporating funk and R&B styles into his jazz. Using a number of prominent sidemen such as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Sonny Fortune, George Benson and Billy Cobham, Ubiquity’s albums helped to popularize the jazz funk crossover style. The group reached the R&B charts with several albums and singles during this period, including the Top 20 disco-influenced R&B hit ‘Running Away’. The album track ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ remains a perennial club favourite into the new millennium.

Ayers dropped the Ubiquity group name in 1978 and continued to have chart success with both his solo albums and singles into the late 80s. After touring Africa, Ayers recorded Africa, Center Of The World with Fela Kuti and also set up the Uno Melodic Records label with the Nigerian musician. He switched to Columbia Records in 1984 but released records less frequently as the 80s came to a close, concentrating on composing and producing for other artists. Since the late 80s, Ayers and the resurrected Ubiquity have enjoyed a successful collaboration with Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho, London, acting as the official house band. In 1993, Ayers guested on the first instalment of Guru’s Jazzmatazz project, a self-styled ‘experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz’. Two years later Ayers secured a contract with RCA Records and the Groovetown label, for whom he recorded 1995’s well-received Nasté. He has subsequently appeared on albums by Masters At Work (1997’s sublime Nuyorican Soul project), Erykah Badu and Eric Benét, and re-established his own record label under the name AFI CDs.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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