Roy Ayers 2005 Interview – Virgin Ubiquity II

Roy Ayers 2005 Int by Huwston

Roy Ayers has conquered Groove. The vibraphonist, producer and singer has maintained a level of consistency and continuity through his work since his beginnings in the seventies. With the release of a second volume of unreleased Virgin Ubiquity recordings, Ayers enjoys his success.

Roy Ayers is kicking back, doing the washing up at home soon before attacking shows across the States and Europe with gigs as diverse as Jazz festivals and free public shows with people like Platinum Pied Pipers. But this time is much different to the period when these recordings were collected…

‘These tunes were taken from sessions between four studios like Electric Lady and The Record Plant and I really loved the analogue sound of those recordings,’ says Ayers, ‘These days that’s what the Hip Hop guys talk about when they sample me; the warm analogue sound. (At that time) I was so into music that my head was only in a creative motif where the only other thing of significance was my family.’

Ayers then goes on to mention a number of people he was collaborating with then at-the-time and since such as Vanessa Williams, George Benson, Mary J. Blige and Rick James (Bitch!). Sure, the BBE releases of the Virgin Ubiquity series will have trainspotters salivating but for Joe Public who doesn’t know his Bootsy from his Phil Collins, how does the man himself feel about being compared to the more well-known legends?

‘I see myself as an innovator of creative styles,’ comments Ayers on the birth of the boogie. ‘I’ve always been able to voice myself and I’ve not excluded myself from any style or repertoire. My versatility and ability to play many different styles has got me to that stature,’ he affirms.

Ayers’ appeal is quite deeper than the more popular groove based artists like James Brown and George Clinton, though he has had his fair share of remixes and collaborations with emerging and chart topping producers. The recent resurgence in remix albums has seen many of his contemporaries, including artists of the era on Atlantic Records, Curtis Mayfield and of course the Verve Remixed series touched up in all different ways and Roy Ayers enjoys this kind of continuance.

‘It’s fine man, I love it!’ He says. ‘I just did something with an old Smokey Robinson song… I put the Roy Ayers thing on it. I played with Smokey and Curtis and I admired them both. But I don’t have the time to be listening to these remix CDs cos I been so busy, man. I haven’t stopped working since May of last year!’ Says the hardly weary Roy Ayers.

Whilst the line up has changed, the ethos has not. ‘Musicians were not as dependable then as they are now. I was in Chick Corea’s studio for midday and guys wouldn’t show till three PM… I was always like, ‘Why didn’t we book for three then?’’ says Ayers, cackling to himself. ‘Stanley Clarke and I were working together and I’d be asking why we hired these guys,’ he reminisces buoyantly.

Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 should convey a time of hedonistic bliss but unlike its previous volume its grooves are more concentrated. Even including a demo version of Everybody Loves The Sunshine, these CDs are always a brilliant peek in time for fans of the funk, old and young.

Virgin Ubiquity II is out now on Bbe through Inertia. 

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