The genius of Roy Ayers spans decades. From the ‘70s to the present day, his music continues to be supported by performers and audiences of various genres. It was the fusion of jazz, soul, and dance music that impacted the afro-heads of his day. Currently, a new generation of dreads, weaves, and baldheads are enjoying the fruit of his labor. By sampling or covering his hits, many R&B and rap artists have prompted a Roy Ayers revival. Although successful, today’s use of his music is merely an introduction to this legend. But thanks to the release of The Best of Roy Ayers, new and old enthusiasts can experience the depth of his artistry.
A blend of dance and soul music is prevalent in the first two songs in this collection. The rhythmic energy in “Running Away” will invoke any age to make a mad dash to the dance floor. If you can remember dances like the hustle, bus stop, and robot, you will feel at home with “Don’t Stop the Music”. Generation Y may not be able to relate to such history, but this song is so inviting that any dance will do.
The music of Roy Ayers appears to have it’s own personality. As a result of the harmonious and accurate performances from his band Ubiquity, you can sense the intended mood and emotion of his songs. “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” is a somber track with matching lyrics. The rhythm of this song is invasive and is intensified by lyrics such as “We live in Brooklyn baby / We’re trying to make it baby / Our time is now / We gotta make it baby”. You don’t have to live within the five boroughs of New York City to identify with struggle. But the passion felt from the reality of its message could have been the motivating factor for rappers such as Mos Def to embrace it.
“Searching” is a song that transcends time. In 1997, Erykah Badu laced it with her exceptional skills on Erykah Badu Live. Her adaptation revealed its soothing melody and poignant lyrics to a new generation. Even though its original presentation lacks today’s dominating drum patterns and electronic instruments, its groove and memorable chorus continues to captivate audiences.
Roy Ayers has proven that songs don’t have to be weighed down with pounds of lyrics to be a hit. Created for the movie Coffy in 1973, “Coffy Is the Color” is a dramatic piece whose main thrust is the repetition of four words—Coffy is the Color. “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” is perhaps the most recognized Roy Ayers hit. Like “Coffy Is the Color”, this song is lyrically light. However, artists such as Mary J. Blige and Brand Nubian have had chart-topping success with its enduring sound.
A successful music artist is usually determined by consistent audience support (a.k.a. record sales). If such a standard is met, he or she has a shot at additional releases, continuous royalty checks, and possibly the title ‘legend’. Roy Ayers has undisputedly met this standard. Decades after his prime, his music lives. But his survival is not solely the result of contemporary adaptations. The Best of Roy Ayers confirms that the ubiquitous voice of Roy Ayers’s music speaks inaudible words. And for generations to come, it will continue to say the words ‘savor’ and ‘enjoy’.