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Roy Ayers: Virgin Ubiquity

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For most of the early ’70s, Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity made state-of-the-art jazz-funk. The cool, mellow grooves were in stark contrast to the more aggressive fusions of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and they were less diffuse than Weather Report’s. In 1976, vibraphonist Ayers scored a pop hit with the jazz-funk classic “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” and it seemed like he spent the next few years struggling to duplicate it, but working firmly within pop structures. It seemed as if the distinctive sound of Ubiquity had been lost, but last year Virgin Ubiquity surfaced, a collection of unreleased tracks from the late ’70s that show Ayers diligently and sometimes successfully fusing jazz, funk and disco.

Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough in the vaults to make this second edition consistently interesting. A few tracks, particularly “Holiday,” “Tarzan,” and “I Am Your Mind Part 2,” resonate with the casual funk that highlighted Marvin Gaye’s work of the same period and served as a foundation for the acid jazz of the ’90s. But as is often the case with these comps of unreleased songs, too many tracks sound half-cooked and were rejected with good reason. While Virgin Ubiquity was a valuable find for all music lovers, this release is for funkologists only.