Originally released in 1976, VARIATIONS found Roy Ayers settling comfortably into the soul-funk grooves that would help establish him as a pioneer of the acid jazz and jazz-rap sound (Ayers became a legend in the '90s as a source for sampling jazzy, funky grooves). On VARIATIONS, Ayers turns further away from traditional bop-oriented jazz and more toward vocal R&B.
Crate diggers will appreciate the churning funk of "Higher" or "One Sweet Love to Remember" and the smooth R&B ballads like "Baby You Give Me a Feeling," but the highlights of this set are unquestionably the hit "Searchin'" and the funky, good-time title track. The technical playing, especially Ayers's cool-toned vibes, keeps the instrumental jazz flame alive, but VARIATIONS is essentially a funky R&B record, and a fine one at that.
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