It seems like just when a few nice days come about, I’m either working inside all day in New York City, and by the time I get to enjoy things, the weather has switched to rain. That’s the case for about the 4th week in a row, and the forecast for the weekend doesn’t look any better. I was hoping to get some digging in this upcoming weekend, but like a Magic 8 Ball would say: “All signs point to no.” There is one glimmer of hope, as my man Greg from Highland Park will be having his monthly sale on Sat. morning, so I may hit that. That being said, I’m trying to con myself into thinking the weather is good. I do not have to con myself into thinking this record is good, however. Before I jump into it, shouts to the people who have jumped aboard The FMF Guest Mix Series, also shout out to Colin over at Keeping Soul Alive, who is doing a bang up job of putting out a mix a week, and is on post 2500. Good on you Colin. Now let’s get back to business with Roy Ayers Ubiquity and “Everyone Loves the Sunshine” from 1976 on Polydor Records.
Roy Ayers was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1940. He came from a musical family, where his mother played piano, his father trombone. Although he was given some vibes mallets by Lionel Hampton at an early age, he would continue to go to public school and not get into the instrument until he was 17. It didn’t hurt that his neighbor was a young Bobby Hutcherson either. Early gigging with Chico Hamilton would lead to a stint at the famous Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, where Herbie Mann would grab the young vibist up for six years. During that period he’s recorded on his own: Virgo Vibes, 1967; Stoned Soul Picnic, 1968, and Daddy Bug in 1969. Ayers would come into his style in these years, and eventually break off from Mann (not before recording one of my fave records: Memphis Underground with him) to form Ubiquity. This R&B/ Jazz/ Rock ensemble if you will, would be influenced by Electric Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock among others, but would also feature players such as Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Cobham, Sonny Fortune and others. He would add wah wah and fuzz tones to his vibes, and really get experimental. His relationship with Polydor Records was fruitful, scoring the soundtrack to Coffey starring Pam Grier, but his sound was about to change. Disco was just starting up, and Ayers would move along, as many artists did with the times. His fusion type stuff led to Disco influenced beats and dance floor friendly numbers. On the way as a band leader, he did put out some great stuff, including Mystic Voyage (“Life Is Just A Moment” is a favorite side of mine), “He’s Coming”, “A Tear to a Smile”, “Change Up the Groove”, “Vibrations”, “Lifeline”, “Fever”, and many others. His massive dance floor groover “Running Away” spawned from Lifeline. Roy still continued to be a trailblazer, and in 1979 went to Africa with Fela Kuti to tour, made a record together, and became even bigger. Through the 80’s Ayers would go on to form his own record label Uno Melodic, and got his career revived by guesting on the original Jazzmatazz series by Guru. (Let’s not forget the guest he also did with Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince!) The man continues to be a pioneer in Jazz, Soul, R&B today.
“Everybody Loves The Sunshine” is one of Ayers most well known hits. Just because it was popular, doesn’t mean it wasn’t dope. The man was straight slick on this track people. Ayers was mixing his Funk style with some smoother R&B, and the outcome, to me, was pure heaven. Keeping it soulful, Ayers and company were moving, and pushing into another direction. While it may not have been busting down the Pop charts, it has been considered a classic. Nothing puts you in Brooklyn in the middle of a Summer heatwave and has you “Getting Down in the Sunshine” than this very side. He got some great help on this record as well: Ayers on vibraphone, vocals, electric piano, Arp synthesizer, Arp string ensemble, and percussion, Philip Woo on piano, electric piano, Arp synthesizer, and string ensemble, Doug Rhodes on drums, Chano O’Ferral on congas and percussion, and finally, the Chicas on vocals. With a stellar line up like this, he couldn’t go wrong. I’m hoping wherever you are this song has chased some rain away, or just made you feel like being in the sunshine. Keep Diggin’!