Who Loves the Sun

Roy Ayers in the sunshine

Roy Ayers
Roy Ayers

“My life, my life, my life, my life, in the sunshine...”

Roy Ayers has always reminded me of a hot summer day. It’s the cooled out vibe, the hot-to-the-touch electric keys, the simple piano riff and deliberately slinky pace of syrupy jams like “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Just when the synths begin to blister the breezy vocals cool things down. No worries, Ayers assures, it’s “just bees and things and flowers.”

I was in Washington D.C. this weekend, about to hop on the Metro when a conversation turned my ears into antennas.

“Roy Ayers is playing tonight.”

“Who?”

“Roy Ayers, the old jazz musician.”

I reversed course and approached the woman in the transit worker vest to see if I’d heard correctly.

“Yeah, he’s playing down by the Capitol and I can’t get anyone excited about it!”

As I approached the intersection of 9th & Pennsylvania the unmistakable sound of Ayers’ candy-coated notes drifted into the warm evening sky. Like he did for the better part of his career, the Lionel Hampton protégé tiptoed the line of stunning jazz and cheesy disco, cooking up a groove too tasty to deny. As a general rule I avoid late 1970s R&B, but I defy you to let the cascading vibes of “Searching” wash over you without a nod of the head. Hearing the masterful and moody “We Live in Brooklyn, Baby” reminded me why his music is a sample goldmine for artists from Mos Def and Common to Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. The crowd – mostly fiftysomething black folks – was feeling reminiscent, one enthusiastic fan simply hollering “1978!” as if willing the world back three decades.

In a somewhat related note, renowned jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson, a Texas native who, like Ayers, played with Lionel Hampton, is facing foreclosure on her Seattle home. The 79-year-old singer is trying to raise $45,000 to save her home before July 11. Contributions to the the Ernestine Anderson Fund can be made at any Bank of America.

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