Roy Ayers

The Essential Roy Ayers

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The title's more than a bit misleading. Few would dub these little-heard but underrated tracks cut by Roy Ayers for his own Uno Melodic label "essential," but Mastercuts Presents: The Essential Roy Ayers nevertheless plugs some vital gaps in the acid jazz icon's legacy, assembling material from his scarce 1983 LP Lots of Love alongside unissued recordings from 1999. Released between major-label tenures with Polydor and Columbia, Lots of Love capitalizes on Ayers' independence by further investigating the Afrobeat rhythms and textures he first explored in his collaboration with Fela Kuti while simultaneously moving into post-disco dance music. While some of its production flourishes seem brittle and dated, this is nevertheless the most engaging and energized material Ayers created during the early '80s. From the darkly sinister groove of "Chicago" to the Fela-inspired epic "Black Family" to the warm, shimmering title cut, Lots of Love recalls the diversity and invention of his classic Ubiquity dates, complete with nuanced performances that reiterate Ayers' absolute mastery of the vibes. The 1999 material similarly draws on contemporary R&B sounds, embracing slick arrangements and electronic percussion -- bottom-rung Ayers at best, but not entirely without merit.

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