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Rare Roy Ayers Sees Light of Day

A batch of unreleased recordings from the latter years of vibraphonist-composer Roy Ayers’ golden tenure with Polydor is set to hit shelves January 27, 2004, on the London-based Barely Breaking Even label. Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 is the first in what the label hopes to be a series of albums featuring Ayers rarities.

Roy Ayers was given a set of vibe mallets by legendary vibraphonist Lionel Hampton when he was five years old, and that set him on his life’s path. Ayers later became one of the most recognized jazz vibraphonists of the 1960s before shifting to a decidedly more R&B approach as a bandleader in the 1970s and ’80s.

Meanwhile, Barely Breaking Even (BBE) is known mostly for its acclaimed Beat Generation series, which has featured contributions from such hip-hop production gurus as Jay Dee (Welcome to Detroit) jazz-fiend Pete Rock (Petestrumentals), Fresh Prince’s buddy DJ Jazzy Jeff (The Magnificent) and the legendary rapper Marley Marl (who coincidentally reworked Ayers’ “Hummin'” for inclusion on his 2001 album, Re-Entry). The Ayers project came about when label boss Peter Adarkwah was given unlimited access to Ayers’ vault of master tapes following the success of Marl’s “Hummin'” remake. The result of Adarkwah’s vault excavation is Virgin Ubiquity. The CD features previously unheard compositions from Ayers and well as his R&B-disco-funk band Ubiquity, which rose to prominence in the late’ 70s with a string of commercial hits including “Searching” and the cool groover “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” among others.

Over the past decade or so Ayers has been introduced to a brand new audience via hip-hop, which has been relentlessly sampling his works, including artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Coolio, DJ Krush and the Notorious B.I.G. Ayers welcomes the recognition and enthusiasm of the hip-hop generation (he even made a guest appearance on rapper Guru’s 1993 album, Jazzmatazz). His recent partnership with BBE seems to be a logical progression “because of my sound, because of the sound and feeling,” says Ayers over e-mail. “There is a certain spirituality that is conveyed through my music that draws the majority of hip-hoppers to sample my music.”

But while most unreleased tracks are unreleased for a reason Ayers assures us this is not the case. In fact, Ayers recently added a few overdubs to the tracks to help liven them up. “I had a production deal with Polydor,” Ayers says, “and in this deal I gave them the masters that I felt they should have. The songs that are encompassed in the new release are songs that were recorded by me through my production company at the same time. Therefore these are just other songs that I held on to. I gave them what I thought was best at the time. It had been such a long period since I had listened to the tapes that when BBE came to listen to them, I was surprised by just how good they sounded. I am pleased—matter of fact, more than pleased.”

The musicians Ayers shares the studio with on Virgin Ubiquity are nothing to sniff at. Some of the more notable players featured on the collection include singer Merry Clayton (a backup singer for Elvis Presley, the Supremes, Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones) and legendary drummers Jimmy Cobb (Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, etc.) and Bernard “Pretty” Purdy (James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Isaac Hayes, etc.).

So without further ado, here is the track listing for Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981:

1. Boogie Down

2. I Really Love You

3. What’s the T?

4. Brand New Feeling

5. Green and Gold

6. Mystery of Love

7. I Did It in Seattle

8. Mystic Voyage (feat. Carla Vaughan)

9. Oh What a Lonely Feeling

10. Sugar

11. I Just Wanna Give It Up

13. Together Forever

14. I Am Your Mind

But if you can’t wait till January, BBE will issue a 12-inch this month to help generate some buzz on the album. The single will feature a track that will not be included on the CD, the bombastic “Searchin’ (Africa 70 version).” The 12-inch will feature both a vocal and instrumental mix of the track.

For more information about Roy Ayers log on to www.royayers.com.

For more information on BBE visit www.bbemusic.com.

Originally Published