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Roy Ayers: West Coast Vibes

Nic Jones By

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Roy Ayers had a career before he had hit records, and this reissue proves the vibraphonist was both well-versed and eloquent within the realm of post-bop jazz. In the company largely of a cast including pianist Jack Wilson and Curtis Amy on tenor and soprano saxophones, Ayers works his way through the kind of programme of standards and originals that was pretty much the order of the day back in the early 1960s. This does not, however, alter the fact that a lot of the musicians here were probably not big names at the time. The passing of time has not changed that situation a great deal, and it's tempting to put this down to the fact that they were not based in New York.

Comparison between this reading of Benny Golson's "Reggie Of Chester" and the one on Lee Morgan's Blue Note debut from a few years earlier reveals no great difference in approach, and the way Ayers plays—what for the vibes might not have been the easiest of lines—is nothing other than joyful listening. The Ayers original "Ricardo's Dilemma" is similar in spirit to the theme for "The Odd Couple," and Curtis Amy's soprano sax playing on it is every bit as distinctive as the soprano work Sonny Criss would commit to posterity a few years after this piece was recorded.

If the documentation of underappreciated musicians can be considered as an integral part of this disc, then the presence of alto saxophonist and vocalist Vi Redd on the two bonus tracks is a joy in itself. The same is true of trumpeter Carmell Jones (on the same tracks), who is perhaps the musician who gets close enough to some East Coast ideal to satisfy the pedants. At the same time Redd perhaps inevitably evokes the spirit of Charlie Parker on two of his lines, she also has a sound and conception all her own.

Which brings us nicely back to Ayers, for whom that old standby about being his own man might have been invented. On a more profound level, West Coast Vibes is further recorded evidence of the fact that there was a whole lot more to West Coast jazz in its heyday than the stereotypes which came to be associated with it.

Track Listing: Days Of Wine And Roses; Reggie Of Chester; It Could Happen To You; Donna Lee; Ricardo's Dilemma; Romeo; Out Of Sight; Young And Foolish; Well You Needn't; Now's The Time; Perhaps/Cool Blues.

Personnel: Roy Ayers: vibes; Curtis Amy: tenor and soprano saxophonees (1,3,6,8,9); Vi Redd: alto saxophone (11,12), vocals (11); Carmell Jones: trumpet (11,12); Jack Wilson: piano (1-10); Russ Freeman: piano (11,12); Bill Plummer: bass (1,3,6,8,9); Vic Gaskin: bass (2,4,5,7,10); Leroy Vinnegar: bass (11, 12); Tony Bazley: drums (1,3,6,8,9); Kenny Dennis: drums (2,4,5,7,10); Richie Goldberg: drums (11,12).

Title: West Coast Vibes | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Mighty Quinn Productions

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