Our AOC Artist of the Week is City of Angels native, vibraphonist Roy Ayers! He is known as the King of Neo-soul or the Icon Man to the Hip-Hop heads. In addition, Ayers has been sampled heavily within the Hip-Hop genre with tunes such as 1972’s “Move to Groove” and 1976’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”. His style consists of Jazz-Funk, Instrumental Pop, Soul Jazz, Fusion, Jazz Instrument, Jazz-Pop, and Vibraphone/ Marimba Jazz. Ayers grew up in a musically inclined household with his father who was a trombone player and his mother a school teacher/ local piano instructor who taught him how to play the piano. At the age of 5 he was given a set of Vibe mallets by legendary vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, however, he didn’t start playing the vibraphone until he was 17.
During Ayers teenage years in high school at Jefferson High he began to study the vibraphone independently, however, he discovered that Bobby Hutcherson, a rising vibraphonist, lived in his neighborhood and began to learn under him. They both formed a great bond as friends and musicians collaborating and practicing with each other. After Roy Ayers graduated from Jefferson High School he attended Los Angeles City College where he studied advanced music theory. In his early 20’s he started to become more active on the West Coast jazz scene recording with Curtis Amy (1962), Jack Wilson (1963-1967), The Gerald Wilson Orchestra (1965-1966), and playing with Teddy Edwards, Chico Hamilton, Hampton Hawes, and Phineas Newborn. However, out of all the this experience he didn’t gain his credible exposure until he played a session with jazz flutist Herbie Mann at the Lighthouse on Hermosa Beach in California. This great session with the accomplished flutist led to a four-year gig from 1966-1970 introducing Ayers to other styles of music that he wasn’t familiar with, but soon grew to love.
During his success he was featured on Herbie Mann’s hit album “Memphis Underground” and went on to record three albums for Atlantic Records under Mann’s supervision. However, Roy Ayers left Herbie Mann’s group in 1970 to form the Roy Ayers Ubiquity which they recorded multiple albums for Polydor Records featuring musicians such as Sonny Fortune, Billy Cobham, Omar Hakeim, and Alphonse Mouzon. The band kept jazz as the core of their sound, however, they decided to bring in other music genres such as R&B/ Funk and Disco. While crossing over into these musical genres Ayer’s found commercial success having numerous charted singles on the R&B charts for Polydor and Columbia records such as “The Golden Rod”, “Mystic Voyage”, and “Runaway”. In the 1980’s he went on to form Uno Melodic Records and in the early 90’s he merged with the Hip-Hop genre being featured on rapper Guru’s album “Jazzmatazz”.
Since this merger of genres has happened Roy Ayers’ music has been sampled and carried on through artists such as Mary J. Blidge, Erykah Badu, 50cent, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac and Ice Cube. Also, he collaborated with Hip-Hop artist Talib Kweli recording the song “In The Mood” produced by Kanye West. AOC FEST is honored to have Roy Ayers perform this year for the AOC fans we cannot wait to see what the living legend has in store.