ROY AYERS + KYMARA – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 20.5.23
The sun has well and truly got his hat on today and the Brighton seafront was especially busy with sun worshipping revellers and tourists. Summer is just starting to feel around the corner, so what better way to celebrate such a day than to witness the legendary Roy Ayers perform his farewell UK concert beside the seaside at the Concorde 2. You could say that the sun was also making a rare but welcome UK appearance. As the classic Roy Ayers song rightfully claims, ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’….
During my lifetime quest to navigate my way around the world for all things funky, for some reason Roy Ayers had somehow eluded me. Tonight was going to put things straight though, and I was looking forward to checking out the man himself at long last.
Tonight’s event was to be part of Ayers farewell tour and at the grand old age of 82, this hard working multi instrumentalist and vibraphonist has decided to put down his mallets once and for all and enjoy a long earned retirement from touring. Born in South Central (Los Angeles), he has been making and producing music since the early 60’s and was once a member of U.S flautist Herbie Mann’s band which he joined in 1966. He is one the most well known and respected vibraphone players amongst the World’s Soul and Jazz circles and is seen as a true pioneer of the Jazz/Funk genre. He is also considered a key figure in the Acid Jazz movement and is known as the Godfather of Neo-Soul. As if that wasn’t enough, he was at one point one of the most sampled old school musicians in the Rap scene.
In the early 70’s, Roy Ayers formed a band called ‘Ubiquity’ of which this farewell tour is appropriately named (it means “a state of being everywhere at the same time”). During this period, he wrote the soundtrack for the well known Blaxploitation film ‘Coffy’ (starring Pam Grier) and toured Nigeria with Fela Kuti. He has also collaborated with such artists as Whitney Houston, Erykah Badu and Rick James to name just a few and in the 2000’s even tried his hand at ‘House’ music. In recent years, he featured as a DJ character in computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ and in 2015, featured on Tyler,The Creator’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ album. He also has a documentary currently in the works and Pharrel Williams cites him as one of his key musical heroes. You could say that this man has been very busy.
But first up tonight was Netherlands born, but Brighton based singer/songwriter Kymara who was to perform a rare stripped down set which featured herself and a guitarist to accompany her. She informed us that she normally performs with a ten piece band and if you want to experience that then go to Patterns (Brighton) on the 23rd of June as they are playing there. Her music was of a Soulful and Jazzy variety and her charm really shone through to an already busy room.
Her second song was called ‘New Roads’ which was followed by a Betty Davis inspired third song. This was a pretty spot on comparison as the song was soulful with a touch of Hendrix style guitar thrown into the mix. Another highlight was ‘Walk Tall Woman’ which within its musical sparseness gave her vocal room to breathe amongst the spaces. Kymara told us that she was very nervous tonight, especially as she was supporting such a legend, but she needn’t have worried as by the end of her set she had won the crowd over judging by the big cheers she received by the end of her performance.
More info on Kymara HERE.
After a bit of a wait, the Roy Ayers band took to the stage slightly later than anticipated which in turn meant they had to trim the set down by two numbers if the previous gig’s set in Bristol was anything to go by. Mr Roy Ayers promptly sat on his stool (with a little help from his friends and band members) and took up his position behind his MalletKAT Pro Vibraphone to much applause from the audience. He stared out into the packed audience at times, as if he was spectating us with a wry smile on his face. Even he looked surprised at what he could still do behind those vibes at 82 years of age.
The band kicked things off with the well known ‘Red, Black And Green’ which got the crowd moving from the get go. John Pressley was main vocalist and hype man for tonight and his smiles and charm resonated throughout the packed and sweaty room. He has worked with Roy Ayers for 22 years now so he knows how to work the stage and get the best out of the band. He made sure Roy was getting the appreciation he deserved tonight, and every time he shouted “Mr Roy Ayers!” (which was frequent), the crowd whooped and hollered in appreciation. The classic ‘Searchin’ was up next and those laid back soulful and funky grooves went down brilliantly with the crowd tonight. Before we could gather our senses, the brilliant ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ was aired to perfection along with spot on 70’s keyboard sounds from the Blighty based keyboard maestro (this song was my highlight of the night). For this particular song, the stage was bathed in yellow light which seemed very fitting for this summer loving number.
The whole band was on point tonight and you just knew you were watching some of the best players on the Jazz/Funk circuit right now. The Brighton based saxophone player was especially good and the drummer was amazing when he let loose. At times it looked like Mr Ayers was getting a little frustrated onstage, maybe fighting to be heard at times, but the band very ably stripped things down at the drop of a hat, to allow the Roy Ayers trademark vibe playing to breathe and shine through the music. John Pressley kept reminding us that this was Roy’s farewell tour but he wasn’t going to commit to not playing again. Are any farewell tours (there are a lot at the moment) actually farewell tours? We shall have to wait and see….
By the time Roy Ayers and band launched into ‘Evolution’ they had well and truly got into their stride. This is one hell of a tight and funky number and was another highlight of the night for me. By this time, the room was pumping and it was nice to see a good cross section of age groups in attendance. Before we knew it, the night was coming to a close which meant it was time for the group’s rendition of probably Roy Ayers’ most well known song by the name of ‘Running Away’. A great way to end the night (there were no encores). At the end of the song, John Pressley threw his white towel into the air as the drummer hit his last beat and Mr Roy Ayers walked off the stage waving to a very appreciative and packed room of Soul/Jazz and Funk fans.
My wife and I had been to the Brighton Dome earlier in the day to see the opening of the Van Gough immersive exhibition which at one point, involved standing in a room full of sunflowers. This Roy Ayers performance was the musical equivalent of standing in that room. It was a shame that tonight was potentially the last time us Brighton folk were going to see him perform again on home soil (allegedly), but tonight was a fitting and enjoyable farewell to a legend that certainly brought the sunshine into the Concorde 2 tonight.
Roy Ayers setlist:
‘Red, Black And Green’
‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’
‘Love Will Bring Us Back Together’
‘Don’t Stop Feeling’
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