Berliners and international fans of the legendary neo-soul master Roy Ayers packed Gretchen on Monday night to see the 77-year-old composer, producer and vibraphonist.
Bass player Trevor Allen introduced Ayers, who shuffled onto the stage in a big bright yellow t-shirt, a purple felt cap and a wide, shining smile. After grabbing his vibraphone mallets, staring into the crowd with a determined look that said “let’s do this!” and quickly nodding to the band behind, they started off with ”Black Family” and the restless crowd immediately relaxed into jubilation.
“Okay! Now we’re gonna play “Searchin’,” called out Ayers, eliciting immediate cheers from true fans.
Each song was performed with imaginative improvisation, including epic solos from each of the four band members —and probably the longest and loudest drum solo (from Christopher De Carmine) the author has ever heard.
“Liquid Love”, “Running Away” and “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” were performed to a very pleased, mixed-aged audience, some of whom might have bought the LP of Everybody Loves the Sunshine way back in 1976 when it first came out. The younger fans there probably first heard Ayers’ music as samples on hits from hip-hop and house producers before finding the originals on YouTube.
Ayers would take a seat from time to time, resting his chin on his fist and starting intently at his band-mates. The range of emotion that Ayers felt from each instrument was reflected on his face, which routinely wiggled and winced as the notes and chords went up and down.
Some fans were more forgiving than others about the hour and fifteen minute set. But you can’t blame the band for not bringing their own opening act with them.
Now in the twilight of his life, Ayes still expresses the positivity and hope that his music has always represented and it was a real pleasure to see a master musician who has devoted their life to promoting messages of love, life and joy in their music.