Listen to this track by smooth jazz and R&B-miester Roy Ayers and his group Ubiquity with a sunshiny tune with a simple message that can be pretty easily appreciated. It’s ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine” as taken from the 1976 LP of the same name, Everybody Loves the Sunshine.
If ever you felt that jazz was an island unconnected to other strains of popular music, let this tune banish the thought from your mind. Here you’ll find a bit of soul, funk, and even African-influenced choral music attached to a repetitive jazz structure and all packed into one tune.
Roy Ayers is a respected vibraphonist seemingly unbound by the obligation to stick to straight ahead jazz playing, not that this was a completely unprecedented approach by the mid-70s. Still, what we’re left with in this tune, and on the rest of the record too, is a seamless amalgam of styles, with less emphasis on soloing, and more on pure vibe – no pun intended. Also, the work that Ayers lays down in this tune paves the way for wider stylistic possibilities still, as this emphasis on pure groove and mood would be the scaffolding on which modern hip-hop would be built. But, by the 70s, Ayers had migrated from Atlantic to Polydor, all the while shifting from jazz, to jazz-funk, and onto a kind of ambient R&B with an overtly African feel to it.
The thing that seems to leap out on this tune is the idea that the natural and the urban aren’t necessarily two solitudes. The song evokes images of the city, perhaps because the style is so closely associated with the kinds of places in which it was created, in this case New York City. And yet it is still bucolic in its own way despite the urban feel to this track. On this song, the sun is still the same to the one living in the projects as it meant to the poet in some verdant countryside. It belongs to everyone.
In context, this shimmering, humid vision of a life-giving sun shining down on the inner city projects of the 1970s packs more of a punch, just because that’s who the audience was; a population not necessarily in control of their political destinies. I don’t necessarily think that this is a political song in any overt way. But, in some ways in this song, the natural world is reclaimed for those living in the city, which may be the source of why this song sounds so downright liberating. In this, the song breaks down more divisions than just musical ones.
In the ensuing decades, Ayers would work with the father Afrobeat himself – Fela Kuti , on the Music of Many Colors LP- and would continue along a logical stylistic path toward hip-hop and dance textures, too. Ayers would continue to record music that blurred stylistic lines, being a source for hip hop samples, become something of a figurehead for the early 90s acid jazz scene in Britain and the States, and continue to tour and retain a loyal following, particularly in the UK, where this song was a bigger hit than it was in his own country.
Roy Ayers is an active musician today. You can find out more about him and his more recent stylistic excursions by visiting Roy Ayers official site.