Roy Ayers - Jazz is Dead 2 (Featuring Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad)

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Roy Ayers, Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad - Jazz Is Dead 2

Vibraphonist Roy Ayers got his honorific as the Godfather of Neo-Soul the old fashioned away – he earned it. R&B, hip-hop, neo-soul and jazz artists regularly call on Ayers to play on their albums. The list includes Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet,  Guru, Rick James, Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest and Najee, just to name a few.

That is likely what Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad had in mind when they teamed with Ayers on the second installment of their Jazz is Dead series. Muhammad, of course, is a member of A Tribe Called Quest and has direct knowledge of Ayers’ fluency in styles outside of jazz.

Roy Ayers, Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad - Jazz Is Dead 2

Vibraphonist Roy Ayers got his honorific as the Godfather of Neo-Soul the old fashioned away – he earned it. R&B, hip-hop, neo-soul and jazz artists regularly call on Ayers to play on their albums. The list includes Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet,  Guru, Rick James, Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest and Najee, just to name a few.

That is likely what Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad had in mind when they teamed with Ayers on the second installment of their Jazz is Dead series. Muhammad, of course, is a member of A Tribe Called Quest and has direct knowledge of Ayers’ fluency in styles outside of jazz.

Jazz is Dead 2 also captures the vibe and spirit of Ayers output in the 1970s and 80s when tunes like “Searching,” “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” “Running Away” and  “You Send Me” got regular spin in jazz fusion and Quiet Storm formats. The album contains the sensuality and funkiness heard in great Ayers albums like Everybody Loves the Sunshine, and it has a seamless quality because the tracks have a connect yet distinct quality.

In a way, Jazz is Dead 2 has an LP type sensibility where a ‘side A’ has a sensual and laid-back feel and side B expresses some of the grit and funk that is also a part of the Roy Ayers sound. The first four tracks, “Synchronize Vibration,” “Hey Lover,” Soulful and Unique,” and “Shadows of the East” possess a connectivity both in their dreamy and drifting arrangement that clear away for free-flowing improvisation and by the fact that one song fades and flows into the next.

The tracks comprising ‘side B,” starting with the grooving, slow burn funk of “Sunflower,” showcase those straight-ahead jazz chops that recall what Ayers was up to during his pre-Polydor days in the 1960s. “Gravity,” is a song that combines the African influenced percussive arrangements that are a consistent staple in Ayers repertoire with tight harmonized vocals that tell a sensual story of an attraction that draws one person to another.

If you include Ayers’ own sizable discography that ranges from straight ahead jazz, to fusion, to R&B, disco and music soundtracks, the vibe master’s career is a testament to the vibrancy of jazz and the genre’s ability to insinuate itself into other musical styles. Is jazz dead? Ayers career and this ironically named album serve as a resounding answer that jazz is alive and well. Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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