ROY AYERS performing as part of Jazz By Genre with Kush featuring Nick Brownman Ali, DJ J Tec and Jason Palma at the Mod Club (722 College), Sunday (November 27). 7 pm. $25-$35. www.jazzbygenre.com.
If you had to have one musician to launch the Jazz By Genre concert series, seeking to bring together jazz, funk, R&B and hiphop fans, soul jazz innovator Roy Ayers would be exactly the right man for the job.
Long before Ayers hooked up with Gang Starr's Guru and Donald Byrd for the groundbreaking jazz-meets-hiphop collision that was Jazzmatazz in 93, he was among the enlightened minority of old school jazzers who were openly pro-sampling and welcomed cross-genre collaborations.
Yet for all of Ayers good will, he still had difficulty getting his head around the sudden rise to popularity of 50 Cent, who recently used Ayers' feelgood club classic Everybody Loves The Sunshine in his new biopic, Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
"I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to listen to someone calling women 'bitches' in their songs," explains Ayers from his New York home. "It didn't make sense, so I asked a journalist to explain the interest in him and he said 50 Cent is part of Eminem's crew with Dr. Dre. Well, Dre is a great producer, but still....
"Then I got a call from my music publisher telling me that 50 Cent wanted to use one of my songs in his new film. 'Oh and by the way,' they added, 'his last album sold 9 million copies.' I said, 'Damn, I love 50 Cent!'"
One of the most sampled artists ever, Ayers could make a comfortable living just cashing his biannual royalty cheques. Yet the workaholic bandleader/composer who just turned 65 last month has no interest in settling into a quiet retirement.
He's still got loads of unreleased tapes to sort through for future volumes of his great Virgin Ubiquity archival series, he recently discovered some film footage of a performance with Fela Kuti in Nigeria that he's in discussions about releasing on DVD, and there are still new albums to complete.
"I'm working on new recordings all the time. I've got a studio in my house set up with Pro Tools, and I just finished this hiphop jazz album that is gonna be the next thing.
"If you've been in the hiphop game for a while and you're getting to be 30 years old, what then? The next step is hiphop jazz -- bringing together scatting and rapping in the context of improvisational music. I thought the idea of the Jazzmatazz project was really good, but I felt that I never had enough solo space. Guru thought that the hiphop aspect should be dominant, but I'd like to make jazz and hiphop equal partners."