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There’s music in the Ayers at Derry Jazz festival

27 April 2016

You know you can add the term ‘music icon’ to your CV when Pharrell Williams names his son after you, and Tupac begs a performance at his 40th birthday bash – but for Godfather of Neo-Soul Roy Ayers, it’s still just ‘all about the groove’.

The 75-year-old funk, soul and jazz composer is currently one of the most sampled artists in history, with the likes of Mary J Blige, 50 Cent, Tupac and Ice Cube all subscribing to his genre shattering brand of music.

With five decades in the music industry under his belt Ayers has seen it all, and is certainly unruffled by the hype about his work. And as he gets ready to fly in to Derry this week ahead of the City of Derry Jazz Festival he’s looking forward to converting a few younger music fans on his first trip to the city.
Ayers will be headlining the massive festival programme which will see over 300 performances take place over five days throughout the May Bank Holiday weekend. Asked what the locals will make of his music, the veteran performer is confident he can bring ‘the groove’ to Derry.

“I would say my music is ubiquitous – I use the term ubiquity as the best way of expressing the feel of my music. It’s about love and sunshine, running away, the third eye, colour – all in all it’s just fabulous,” he enthuses.

“You can tell I’m passionate about it – I just live music. It’s grown in me since I was a child and I think that comes across when I write and perform. I have about 20 songs that I want to bring to the people of Derry and I know they’re going to get into it. You just can’t help it!

Ayers is revered by musicians across all generations with many reproducing his work in tribute to the man credited with being the number one vibraphone player in the world. At 75 he’s still got it but he remains philosophical about why his work has such resonance with the younger generation.

“The groove is there – and it’s really taken off in a lot of different places now. My music has been sampled by a lot of different people which is fantastic. I like the fact that young people are inspired by my work. It’s a wonderful gracious thing that they follow it. I think that young people do generally get my music.”

Ayers’ discography runs into pages and such is his stature in the industry that Roy has a dedicated following among fans of R&B, jazz, soul and funk. His most notable works ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ and ‘Searchin’ have been sampled by several contemporary artists including Mary J Blige, and Pharrell Williams cites him as his musical hero.

“I’m really good friends with Pharrell actually,” he reveals, “He named his son after me – Rocket Ayer Williams – which really is the ultimate honour,” he laughs. “I’m lucky to have worked with so many great artists and I like to think the music will continue to inspire people.

“Ultimately I would have loved to work with Jaki Bayard, he was one of my musical heroes. But it’s great to know younger artists are still interested in the music and enjoy working with me.”

As Derry gears up for the biggest weekend in the annual music calendar, kicking off tomorrow, it’s clear what the highlight will be – with Roy Ayers taking to the stage of the historic St Columb’s Hall on Sunday May 1. And he’s expecting big things from his audience.

“I’m really looking forward to coming to Derry. I hope people are ready to party and get down because it’s all going to be really heavy on the groove!”

You can buy tickets to see Roy Ayers and his band by contacting the Millennium Forum Box Office on 028 71264455. For a full Jazz Festival programme go to www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com