Erika Badu famously called him “The Godfather of Neo Soul”, the legendary vibraphonist/vocalist; Roy Ayers played City Winery Chicago for two nights this week. With a career spanning over five decades, he is a beloved and respected jazz/R&B/Soul artist in the music scene. I attended Wednesday night’s show at City Winery and eagerly anticipated the legendary artist. Although I’ve been a huge fan for years, I’ve only seen him live a handful of times. He appeared on stage with little fanfare, dressed casual and cool and created magic with his mallets and vibraphone. He came out, immediately had his sound adjusted and began the evening with his classic hit, “Everyone Loves the Sunshine”. His band, amazingly consisting of only a keyboardist, bassist and drummer” were incredible. At times I had to check to make sure there weren’t more band members on stage. These incredibly talented artists were the perfect complement to Ayers smooth sounds. Clearly influenced by Ayers, they were musical masters, leaving the crowd speechless at the incredible level of artistry. Even Roy Ayers, would stand to the side and watch his band, thrill the audience, like a proud father.
At times, it was difficult to hear Ayers speak. I wasn’t sure if that was because of his voice or because the microphones weren’t turned up as much. However, at almost 80 years old, his skills on the vibraphone are unmatched and it was clear that his ear for music and melody are fine tuned. Audiences grooved to classics, like “Don’t Stop”, Searching, Running Away and more. What I love and respect about Roy Ayers is how he blends sounds to create such incredible melodies. Even songs that fans have enjoyed for decades were remixed with new chords that gave old songs a new feel. The show was so good that when it was over the crowd started chanting and begging for an encore. What Roy Ayers does with the vibraphone with vibe mallets is nothing short of amazing. It’s hard to believe he’s been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. He is a master at his craft and the audience knew it.