jazz is dead 002


In February 2018, Roy Ayers performed four sold out shows in Los Angeles as part of the Jazz Is Dead Black History Month series.  It wasn’t until 2020 that fans of Ayers discovered that in addition to those shows, the legendary vibraphone player had also recorded an entire album of new material with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. 

Over the course of its eight original compositions, written collaboratively by Younge, Shaheed Muhammad & Ayers and recorded at Younge’s Linear Labs in Los Angeles, the resulting album sounds both like an unearthed an unreleased album from Ayers’ classic period in the 1970s (which produced the oft-sampled “Red, Black & Green,” “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby,” “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” and “Running Away), as well as something startling, new and unexpected.

“Syncronized Vibrations,” “Hey Lover,” “Soulful & Unique,” “Sunflowers,” and “Gravity” represent a perfect blending of Ayers’ blissful mid-1970s music (best exemplified by “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”) combined with Adrian Younge’s trademark vintage soulful sounds, with multi-instrumentalists Younge & Shaheed Muhammad performing bass, electric piano, clavinet, mellotron and more, along with drummer Greg Paul (of LA’s Katalyst Collective) and Roy Ayers’ ever present vibraphone.  Each of these tracks also features a revolving cast of vocals from Ayers, longtime Younge collaborator Loren Oden, and soul singer Joy Gilliam (of “Sunshine & the Rain” & “Freedom” fame) amongst others.

If fans had ever wondered what a Roy Ayers and David Axelrod collaboration in 1972 might have sounded like, the instrumental “Shadows of The East” gives us that answer.  The song also answers a similarly seemingly fantastical question, at least before this session existed, through the featured playing of Phil Ranelin & Wendell Harrsion, of the legendary Spiritual Jazz record label Tribe.  Ranelin & Harrison are also featured with the group on “Solace” and the album’s closer “African Sounds.”

During that closing song Adrian Younge recites a poem about the importance of respecting the roots of all this music and poses a question for listeners to ponder, one that resonates at an even deeper level in the current moment we are experiencing, “Even in the darkness of life, we gotta stick together, we gotta do better…So ask yourself, is my love for my people only a drop in this ocean of time? Or is my love for my people a necessary state of mind?”

The 8 tracks on this album testify to the love not only of a legendary musician’s legacy, but to the vitality & necessity of this music and these sounds in the present era, a thread that will likely run throughout all of the upcoming releases from Jazz Is Dead Records.