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Roy Ayers: Ubiquitous Groove

Roy Ayers

Call him a jazz sellout if you want, but Roy Ayers is one of the most resilient vibraphonists of our time. In the course of four decades, he’s aptly reinvented himself accordingly to popular tastes. In the late-’60s, he was a hard-bopper, playing with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Joe Henderson, but when the ’70s began, Ayers morphed into an Afrocentric, politically minded R&B-funk prince, releasing classic albums such as Red, Black & Green and He’s Coming (both on Polydor).

During that time, he also scored the 1973 film Coffy, one of the most treasured blaxploitaton soundtracks. And once disco advanced to the vanguard, he found himself writing and performing dance-floor fillers such as “Freaky Deaky” and “Get on Up, Get on Down.” From there, he went on to Nigeria’s Afro-beat, linking up with Fela Kuti in the early ’80s for Africa, Center of the World (Polydor), 2000 Black (Celluloid) and Music of Many Colours (Blygram). Lately, you’re likely to find Ayers performing on a number of deep-house and broken-beat singles for the electronica market, not to mention the immeasurable amount of samples he’s supplied to top hip-hop and R&B artists.

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