Archive for roy ayers

Atlanta Jazz Fest 2012 – Day 1 Recap

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012, JazzLives! with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by curtjazz

The 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest couldn’t help but exceed its immediate predecessor, based on volume alone. This year’s festival featured three full days of free jazz in Piedmont Park, whereas 2011 had only two.  Four acts a day were featured on the Mainstage and another four on the other side of the park at the International Stage.

What follows over the next three posts, will be my thoughts on the festival, opinions on performances and observations on some things that caught my attention. In addition, there are some photos and video clips. So this is not so much a review as it is a recap.

DAY ONE 5/26

Have to confess that the fam and I moved slowly on Saturday morning, while leaving Charlotte for Atlanta. So slowly that it backfired a bit. By the time we got everything we needed, dropped the dog off at doggie care, drove the 4 hours to ATL, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, found parking and walked back to the park, we unfortunately had managed to miss the first Mainstage performance by Dwight Andrews.  We settled in as Cyrus Chestnut was finishing his first number, which meant that   I was too late to take pictures of the “Nut Man”.  A bit disappointing, but it was my own fault.

Ernie Gregory, the renowned jazz photographer and Atlanta Jazz Festival emcee. introduces Kathleen Bertrand

As for Mr. Chestnut and his trio, they were up to their usual level of excellence. Chestnut, Dezron Douglas on bass and Neal Smith on drums have worked together long enough now that they are in musical lockstep. By the time they reached “CC Rider” the crowd had joined them, rocking along and snapping fingers as one. Another terrific performance by a great group.

 Between sets, we got settled in, enjoyed gourmet popsicles from a vendor who called himself “King of Pops”. My son John and I also took time to shoot our first vlogs of the weekend.

Up next was Atlanta-based vocalist Kathleen Bertrand.  Ms. Bertrand, an attractive and appealing singer, immediately caught the attention of the crowd with her pop influenced jazz vocals and her form-fitting dress.  Most of her material came from her latest album Katharsis, including “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, the set opener and the strong originals, “Date Night” and “Don’t Let It Die”; which is a plea for the survival of mainstream jazz.  A medley of standards in the middle of the set missed the mark a bit, but Ms Bertrand recovered strongly with an appropriate set closer “Jazz at Piedmont Park”.  It was a good set overall and it left the crowd feeling energetic and ready for the headliner.

Kathleen Bertrand performs “Wrapped Around Your Finger” at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest

 And that headliner was the great Roy Ayers. I watched Mr. Ayers move slowly backstage prior to the performance (he is in his seventies, after all). However when his introduction came and he hit the stage, he did it with more energy than many men half his age.  He exhorted the crowd, sang, told stories and even played a little on the vibes. It was a virtual love fest as young and not so young on the by now packed lawn sang and danced along with “Red Black and Green”, “We Live in Brooklyn Baby”, “Searching”, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and the inevitable set closer, “Running Away”. Kathleen Bertrand even returned, joining Roy on vocals on one number. Roy Ayers is still a great performer and a very good vibraphonist. His vocals are by now, a bit shaky, but again, he is 71 and an R & B/Hip-Hop/Jazz legend.  He came and gave the crowd what they wanted and we all went home happy and anticipating another great day on Sunday. 


Roy Ayers exhorts the crowd during his performance at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest


And Sunday was a great day, with a real revelation for me.

More on that in the next post, which will include more photos and performance footage.

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012 Preview – Roy Ayers

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012 with tags , on May 15, 2012 by curtjazz

“Having good health, being able to breathe and be happy, that’s one of the most beautiful gifts. On top of that, I have the gift to play music and make people happy through that. I’m just telling you from my heart, I’m so in love with life” – Roy Ayers

About 15 years ago, my wife and I were boarding a plane from Nashville back to New York after attending a friend’s wedding. While in Nashville we had  bought t-shirts – mine was John Coltrane, hers, Miles Davis. As we boarded the flight, we encountered a rather boisterous group of brothers in our section. When they saw our shirts, they became even more boisterous “Ohhhhh look out now y’all, we got some heavy hitters sittin’ with us!!!”, said the oldest of the gentlemen; who had on some funky looking shades. The good-natured ribbing continued for a few minutes. As I looked at the cat with the funky shades, I whispered to my wife, “That guy looks familiar, I’ve seen him somewhere before”. 

He then took the shades off and became deadly serious.  He said to me “Trane was the man, bro…he was the man…” He shook his head in a gentle awe and was transported  to another place, clearly hearing those sheets of sound in his head.  But this seemed like it wasn’t just a memory of a recording, like my Trane moments. No; this cat had the look of someone who had been there and experienced Coltrane in person.

I knew by now that he had to be somebody.  I was dying to ask the cat who he was, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself by admitting that I didn’t know him. 

I went to the rest room during the flight. I had decided that on the way back to my seat, I was going to ask this man who he was.  However, by the time I returned, the cat with the funky shades was asleep. I wasn’t going to wake him just to satisfy my curiosity.

The cat and his crew got off before us in New York and disappeared into the La Guardia throng. As my wife and I drove home, I was still curious about this man’s identity.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out. As I opened the mailbox to collect what had been left over our long weekend, the latest issue of one of the major jazz publications was in the box. Staring back at me, in a full-page ad on the inside cover was, you guessed it, the cat with the funky shades…Roy Ayers.

Roy Ayers is a legend of jazz funk; adored by hundreds of thousands of fans, sampled over the years by countless hip-hop artists and unfortunately, sneered at by a handful of jazz purists who have no use for his brand of fusion. 

Let them sneer all they want, but know this, Roy Ayers is no Kenny G.  Roy Ayers has paid his dues. Roy Ayers has influenced and inspired many who have come along after him.

Ayers got his first vibraphone mallets from Lionel Hampton at age five.  He broke in as a part of the thriving straight ahead jazz scene on Los Angeles’ Central Avenue in the early sixties, playing alongside L.A. heavyweights such as Curtis Amy and Jack Wilson, so yes, when Roy Ayers spoke of Trane, he knew what he was talking about, first hand.  In the mid ’60’s, Ayers joined forces with Herbie Mann and Gerald Wilson to produce some strong mainstream and soul-jazz records.  If you ever get a chance, check out Virgo Vibes and Stoned Soul Picnic, two early Ayers albums on Atlantic Records.

Then came the 70’s and Roy Ayers, the jazz-funk legend was born. UbiquityCoffyMystic Voyage… and the list goes on. Then in the 80’s came his work alongside seminal Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, introducing Ayers to a worldwide audience.  With the rise of hip-hop sampling in the late 80’s and early 90’s Ayers became a hero to another generation; the hip-hop deejays and producers who began to sample a lot of Ayers’ killer 70’s grooves.  Roy Ayers was now reborn as the “Godfather of Acid Jazz”. He has worked steadily ever since, attracting audiences that cross generational and cultural lines.

So at 71, Roy Edward Ayers, Jr., the cat on the plane with the funky shades, has no need to explain himself to anyone, fan or critic.  What he still wants to do is perform music from his catalog of five decades and entertain his fans, including the couple in the Miles and Trane t-shirts. And we’ll bring along our son, another generation of Ayers fan. We’ll be there when he closes out the first night of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival, we hope you will too.

Roy Ayers is scheduled to perform at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest in Piedmont Park; on Saturday, May 26, 2012, at 9 p.m. Admission is free.

For further information about Roy Ayers, visit his website at

For further information about the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at

Unsung Women of Jazz #7 – Vi Redd

Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2011 by curtjazz

Vi Redd

This record is a sterling example of what the music [jazz] lost in the name of its phallocentricity. Vi Redd demonstrates a thoughtful tone and a careful respect for those around her. Her solos are pithy and directly to the point…Quite honestly, there’s really nothing quite like her records.”From Rob Ferrier’s All Music guide Review of Vi Redd’s Lady Soul LP

Claire Daly, Tineke Postma, Tia Fuller, Virginia Mayhew are just a few of the strong women jazz saxophone players on the scene today. Rewind 40 – 50 years and you’ll find very few names.  Elvira “Vi” Redd was one of those few.  Now I know that there were many women sax players during the ’40’s – 60’s who were part of the “all girl” big bands and novelty acts. What I’m talking about are women who stepped out there on the front line with the men and recorded as leaders.  Vi Redd was a pioneer.

Ms. Redd is the daughter of Alton Redd, who was a New Orleans drummer and the co-founder of the Big Easy’s legendary Clef Club. Vi was born in Los Angeles in 1928.  With her father being a major part of the Central Avenue jazz scene, Vi was exposed to many of the greats of jazz from an early age.  Young Vi was also blessed with an aunt, Elma Hightower, who was considered one of the foremost L.A. music teachers of her time.  Ms. Hightower was instrumental in Vi’s decision to play the saxophone.

Like many sax players of her generation, Ms. Redd’s sound is heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.  So, it was no accident that the first of her two albums as a leader was titled Bird CallRecorded in 1962, it’s a good album, that features Herb Ellis on guitar; Leroy Vinnegar on bass; Carmell Jones on trumpet; Russ Freeman on piano and a young, pre-fusion Roy Ayers on vibes.  In addition to her solid work on alto, Ms. Redd also sings on a few numbers, which is not a bad thing, as she is a fine vocalist with a compelling grit to her sound.  The tunes penned by producer Leonard Feather are the only selections that miss the mark.

The next year, she recorded her second and apparently, final album, Lady SoulIt’s the more polished of the two albums, with great playing and singing by Ms. Redd and first-rate support from Dave Bailey, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ben Tucker.  Unfortunately, Lady Soul has slipped into obscurity and is extremely hard to find.

When one does research on the career of Vi Redd, the term that recurs more than any other is “under-recorded”. How true that is. For though Ms. Redd has played and toured with artists such as Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Sarah Vaughan and Max Roach, she has only two albums to her name and a scant four more with other artists.  Notable among these is Now’s The Time; an all female session led by Marian McPartland, in 1977.  Throughout the years, she gigged around the Los Angeles area and supported herself as a schoolteacher between engagements.  She finally received a bit of long overdue recognition in 2000, when she was honored at “Instrumental Women: Celebrating Women-N-Jazz“, a concert at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

As of this writing, Vi Redd is retired and living in the L.A. area. And as we can see in this heartwarming interview conducted by a family member in 2009, she is still sharp, delightful and energetic.

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