Jazz Singer-Vibraphonist Roy Ayers: The Godfater of Neo-Soul
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From the coal camps of Appalachia to the White House to the Kennedy Center stage, musician Walt Michael and his dulcimer have played for all sorts of people in all sorts of places. A dulcimer virtuoso and composer who plays a singular style of folk-roots-chamber music, Michael has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and the U.K, and his music has been heard on the likes of Broadway, the BBC, PBS and The Tonight Show. Michael's recorded 14 albums as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and composed and performed collaboratively with both the Pilobolus Dance Theater and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Learn More
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Check out a video of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”.
Roy Edward Ayers, Jr. was born in Los Angeles, CA on September, 10 1940. He comes by his affinity with music naturally, as his mother Ruby Ayers was a schoolteacher and local piano instructor and his father Roy Sr., a sometimes-parking attendant and trombonist. As it often happens in a household filled with the love and the appreciation which for music, Roy began to demonstrate his musical aptitude by the tender age of five, by which time he was playing boogie woogie tunes on the piano. He turned to the steel guitar by the age of nice, had stints during his teens playing flute, trumpet and drums before embracing the vibes as his instrument of choice.
Perhaps Roy’s karmic destiny as a vibraphonist was by his parents’ decision to allow him attend a concert featuring the great Lionel Hampton’s Big Band. During “Hamps” customary stroll down the aisle to thank you his audience for attending, he noticed and ecstatic five-year-old boy. So impressed was “Hamp” by the child’s ebullience he walked over and presented young Roy Ayers Jr. with the gift of a lifetime- a pair of vibe mallets. During Roy’s adolescence, although his parents required that his schoolwork remain his primary focus, his mother managed to fit in piano lessons, which served to enhance his public school education. In addition to Roy’s involvement with various instruments, he also sang in the church choir. Then, at seventeen years of age his parents presented him with a set of vibes and the rest, as they say, is history.
Roy began at first study independently, then eventually discovered that Bobby Hutcherson, a rising vibraphonist, lived in his neighborhood, and subsequently he began to work under Bobby’s tutelage. Their relationships as friends and musicians blossomed, with regular meetings between the two to collaborate and practice. During this period, Roy went on to form very first group of which he was the leader, while a student of Jefferson High school. Appropriately enough, he first named the group the Jefferson Combo, later re-naming the group to the Latin Lyrics. After graduation from Jefferson High, Roy attended Los Angeles City College where he studied advanced music theory.
By 1961 Roy had become a well-rounded, full-fledged professional musician, and as is customary in nuturing African-American households, at twenty-one the keys to the door. As the adage goes, if you are blessed, when one closes another one opens. Fortunately for Roy, he had just begun to receive his musical blessings, as early in his career, he collaborated and performed with likes of Chico Hamilton, Teddy Edwards, Jack Wilson, Phineas Newborn and Gerald Wilson. Shortly thereafter, Roy made his recording debut with Curtis Amy, a highly regarded saxophonist, with whom he recorded “Way Down” and “Tippin on Through”.