July 18, 2008


Roy Ayers was born on September 10, 1940 in Los Angelos, Ca. One of the most visible and winning jazz vibraphonists of the 1960s, then an R&B bandleader in the 1970s and '80s, Roy Ayers' reputation s now that of one of the prophets of acid jazz, a man decades ahead of his time. A tune like 1972's "Move to Groove" by the Roy Ayers Ubiquity has a crackling backbeat that serves as the prototype for the shuffling hip-hop groove that became, shall we say, ubiquitous on acid jazz records; and his relaxed 1976 song "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" has been frequently sampled. Yet Ayers' own playing has always been rooted in hard bop: crisp, lyrical, rhythmically resilient. His own reaction to being canonized by the hip-hop crowd as the "Icon Man" is tempered with the detachment of a survivor in a rough business. "I'm having fun laughing with it," he has said. "I don't mind what they call me, that's what people do in this industry."

Growing up in a musical family — his father played trombone, his mother taught him the piano — the five-year-old Ayers was given a set of vibe mallets by Lionel Hampton, but didn't start on the instrument until he was 17. He got involved in the West Coast jazz scene in his early 20s, recording with Curtis Amy (1962), Jack Wilson (1963-1967), and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra (1965-1966); and playing with Teddy Edwards, Chico Hamilton, Hampton Hawes and Phineas Newborn. A session with Herbie Mann at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach led to a four-year gig with the versatile flutist (1966-1970), an experience that gave Ayers tremendous exposure and opened his ears to styles of music other than the bebop that he had grown up with.

After being featured prominently on Mann's hit Memphis Underground album and recording three solo albums for Atlantic under Mann's supervision, Ayers left the group in 1970 to form the Roy Ayers Ubiquity, which recorded several albums for Polydor and featured such players as Sonny Fortune, Billy Cobham, Omar Hakim, and Alphonse Mouzon. An R&B-jazz-rock band influenced by electric Miles Davis and the Herbie Hancock Sextet at first, the Ubiquity gradually shed its jazz component in favor of R&B/funk and disco.

In the 1980s, besides leading his bands and recording, Ayers collaborated with Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, formed Uno Melodic Records, and produced and/or co-wrote several recordings for various artists. As the merger of hip-hop and jazz took hold in the early '90s, Ayers made a guest appearance on Guru's seminal Jazzmatazz album in 1993 and played at New York clubs with Guru and Donald Byrd.

Today, the dynamic music man is an iconic figure still in great demand and whose music has been sampled by music industry heavyweights, including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, 50 Cent, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, and Ice Cube. Ayers recently recorded with hip-hop artist Talib Kweli (produced by Kanye West) and jazz/R&B singer Will Downing. Many of Ayers’ songs including “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,”, “Searchin”, “Running Away” have been frequently sampled and remixed by DJ’s worldwide.

Jean-Claude Toran, was born in June of 1944. He is your poet. He is your playwright. He is your actor. He is your Clown. He is your ultimate entertainer. a man of universal talents, with global presence and he deserves the right to be your entertainer. As the man puts it so eloquently, "Every place that I have ever been, I'm still there." And oh yes, the man has been "there";. From the halls and walls of the White House, to the streets and alleys of the black houses of the ghettos, he's been there. He's been a Preacher and a prisoner. He's been a leader and a follower. He's been up to the towers in New York and Philadelphia. And he's been down in the gutters of Los Angeles and DC. He can recognize the smell of the Australian wilderness and distinguish the taste of a Jamaican morning. He's performed on a grand stage, and walked in the footsteps of Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. He's written love songs and movies. He plays a Yidaki also called a didgeridoo. It's a wind instrument that was given to Jean-Claude by the Indigenous Australians, the Aboriginese.

"Jean-Claude's first touring experience was with Sun Ra. "He was an entertainer and made everyone with him perform to the max. Sun Ra taught me about touching the audience...I wore a pair of tights with a cape as I went in the audience saying, Space is the place, Space is the place, You're on the Good Ship Earth, but you haven't met the captain of the space ship yet."
Roy Ayers is another total entertainer with whom Jean-Claude has worked with. "It's always a pleasure to perform with him; the video we did some years back still pops up every now and then on BET...Going to places like South Africa, Europe, and Australia with Isaac Hayes as his personal aide, also helped to build me as an entertainer. Those experiences last until this day in terms of the impact it had upon me. As an entertainer, I feel very comfortable where I am right now."

For many years Jean Claude refused to write poetry for people to read. He would write it, learn it, and tear the paper up. His standard was that he would not go on stage with a piece of paper to read a poem that I had written. The poems that he recites on the stage are very special. Today a lot of things are being called, 'poetry' just because they rhyme. Just because a person can rhyme words does not mean that he or she is a poet. Back in the 70's (1974), Jean Claude challenged himself to go to Los Angeles from Philadelphia and make a living as a performing poet, but before he could do that, he had to go to New York City and be a street performer. He had several spots to perform; in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, under the arch in Washington Square Park, and the steps of Carnage Hall. "I did not make a lot of money, just enough to eat and on some days get a room." Jean Claude's CD 'The Best of Jean-Claude Toran' celebrates twenty-five years of his performing spoken word.

Come to the SOJPradio website and listen to a wonderful conversation with Jean-Claude Toran and Roy Ayers

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