Roy Ayers Interview 


All of us have at one time or the other complained about how hectic our lives are. Spend a day with this ball of energy now in his 63rd year and you will realise that what you are fitting into your day is probably regarded by Ayers as operating at a snail’s pace! Having just returned from yet more sell-out gigs in London, this time at the Jazz Café he can’t wait to tell me about his new album of previously unreleased material.

‘ I happened to mention to BBE label boss Peter Adarkwah in the studio one day that I had some tapes that I recorded in my REAL hot period in the 70’s and was he interested in listening to them? Man as soon as he heard the tracks he was doing the Jamiroquoi dance around the studio.’ 

No wonder, even for an artist of Ayers stature the album is phenomenal both in terms of the standard of the music and the quality of the production. Even Ayers himself comments that he didn’t realise how good he really was at the time. ‘ I was earning more money, having more sales and writing 25 new songs every day. I still have another 130 tapes lying in the vaults of material that is just as good which frankly I had really forgotten about. I thought for a long time that this was just regular stuff you know like someone as creative as Leonardo Da Vinci would look at his work and think that it wasn’t anything special. It took someone like Peter to waken me up to the vibe that I was creating during that period. I guess the only artist around today that is writing as much stuff per day would be R. Kelly.’ 

Ayers has more people sampling his music and having bigger hits from them than any other artist including James Brown. He has always moved forward never afraid to embrace what is around at the time despite the initial wrath of his more fundamentalist jazz contemporaries. Today, he is known as the King of Neo-Soul by none other than Erkah Badu who has guested on one of Ayer’s 80 albums.!  ‘She is a very spiritual lady!! I asked her why she called her son Seven and she told me that the 7th letter of the alphabet was G and that stood for God.You know,her best friend is Betty Wright and we are also going to be doing something with her as well.’

Sometimes Ayers talks so fast about a variety of things that he has moved onto something else before you have had time to consider responding to the comments he made a couple of minutes ago. Perhaps it’s a trait of Vibraphonists to live life to the full and at all full systems ahead. I ask him about his idol Lionel Hampton and if he intends to continue playing as long as the great man. For once Ayers is reflective…….’I went to see him just before he died and he didn’t recognise me . I hugged him and told him that I loved him and you know what whilst he didn’t know those around him he was still able to play with his one functional arm better than I can now play with two.!! He was the only artist that was fired from Las Vegas because he could not leave the stage after his supposedly hour long set . Hamp just used to continue he was having such a good time and the audience used to leave the concert so tired that nobody could be bothered to gamble after the show and went to bed instead.!! The casinos lost money so they never wanted him back.! ‘ 

I don’t want to retire as long as I can swing and groove then I want to play until I die, just like Hamp.’

Ayers puts his idol’s energy and longevity down to the ability to party and then some.! Although, he adds that his energy seems to come from eating good natural food, sleeping well and listening to Roy Ayers music.!!.He also seems to have something going with the UK which enthuses him even more . ‘ Man, it’s so heavy.! new people at my gigs every time, always selling out and Gilles Peterson wants me to play Wembley Arena and thinks that will be a sell-out as well.!! 

Life for Ayers is obviously good and for the man who has no regrets only positive vibes it looks set to continue for a long time to come. His favourite song just happens to be ‘ When You’re Smiling ‘ and that is one, which will be put into his repertoire when he returns to his second home at Ronnie Scott’s at the end of March. He admits that it makes him cry every time that he hears it and it should as it speaks volumes for his ability to ensure that his audiences do not see the tears but only feel the positive vibe of the Ayers experience.