Jazz-funk legend Roy Ayers remains unstoppable | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Jazz-funk legend Roy Ayers remains unstoppable

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The 70s might have been the last time the media treated jazz music as part of the mainstream: Sun Ra appeared on Saturday Night Live, John McLaughlin arguably received as much coverage in rock magazines as David Bowie, and major labels A&M and Arista had entire rosters of jazz artists. In the midst of all of this was the jazz-funk subgenre. Though it was much maligned by jazz purists in its heyday, it’s become revered by rare-groove DJs too young to have experienced it firsthand. Jazz-funk practitioners such as Herbie Hancock, Lonnie Liston Smith, Eddie Harris, the Crusaders, and Donald Byrd were all just as likely to be heard on soul and rock stations as they were on jazz radio. Los Angeles vibraphonist Roy Ayers also got a piece of the action. During the 60s, Ayers had established a track record playing behind Jack Wilson and Herbie Mann while releasing solo albums on United Artists and Atlantic. But he really came to the fore as a front man when he formed Roy Ayers Ubiquity in 1970, and the group went on to release a series of classic albums on Polydor, including 1975’s Mystic Voyage and 1976’s Everybody Loves the Sunshine. It's fitting that Ayers plays at City Winery as Chicago looks toward summer—the title track from that 1976 album is one of the ultimate odes to warm weather. Following a health scare last month (he was hospitalized in Portland not long before playing the Soul'd Out Music Festival), Ayers is on the mend—and back out on the road. He’s remained prolific throughout his career, and thankfully he’s still unstoppable now.   v

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