Roy Ayers live review: with Ray Mann Three, The Bamboos and Nostalgia 77…
The Forum, Sydney…










Roy Ayers? I’m not gonna tell you about him. You should bloody-well know…

Reading the blogs of local soul-heads beforehand, one could be forgiven for assuming this was the only gig of the year. The excitement was palpable (including mine), and all the talk was of Roy Ayers. Comments such as; “Roy Ayers live, with Lonnie Liston Smith, and Wayne Henderson – who can pass that shit up???” abounded.

I was also extremely excited I admit, at the prospect of seeing the very hot Nostalgia 77 (AKA Benedic Lamdin) on his 12 day Australian tour. The extremely talented musician and producer, brought along an eclectic and perfectly suited DJ set, which kept the mood era-spanning, underground, overground (!) and sparky between the live performances. For those who paid attention, his sets were exceedingly danceable, slightly sexy and one of the many highlights of the gig for me.

I’m afraid I missed the Ray Mann Three, but I will definitely catch them live at Russ Dewbury’s next ‘Night at the Jazz Rooms’, at Sydney’s Melt bar, on November 7th..).

The inimitable, suited and booted Bamboos and phenomenal vocalist Kylie Auldist, laid out a very tight set (unsurprisingly, these guys funk, and you should bloody-well know that too). Encompassing tracks from the new album ‘Side Stepper’ (which I actually haven’t heard in it’s entirety yet, although I loved what I’ve caught live), there was huge crowd appreciation and much busting of a groove. Kylie’s recent album ‘Just Say” and the title track from Step it Up were among the choice cuts, ending on their version of J. Flemming’s classic ’Never did I stop Loving you’, The Bamboos set was the perfect embodiment of the anticipation that this gig had caused with this pure quality line-up, from Melbourne to Sydney.

There were initially a few feedback issues in Roy Ayers live set, but they were promptly dealt with by Mr John Castle on the sound desk (we thank you). Roy was the front-man you always knew he would be, big and brilliant and loud. With such a back catalogue to choose from, why not put the best-knowns first? The spectacular classic that everyone probably owns in some form ‘Everybody loves the sunshine’ (of course!) and an energetic medley including ‘Running Away’/‘Evolution’ captivated the expectant, eclectic audience. Of particular brilliance was the version of Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Night in Tunisia’ with incredible energy, Ayres on the vibraphone, Roy Gaskins on alto sax and Lee Pearson ripping up the drums. It was around 9 minutes long, and included a bass solo by Donald Nicks. Who doesn’t love a bass solo? These were a few of my favorite things..:) It also allowed for a little breather for these of-age gentlemen. ‘We all live in Brooklyn, Baby’ became “We all live in Sydney, Baby” and lost little for the appropriate change.

This set was accurately described as “a jazz odyssey” by a fellow attendee with impeccable credentials. Between the famous ‘standards’, it was full, unbridled convoluted jazz breaks, a journey of crazy-loose instrumental scat and soul. Enough self-indulgence, I thought, to maybe loose the crowd. With THAT reputation, ability, and long-standing utmost respect, the expectations were high and as it turned out, I was wrong (thank you for that Sydney!). This crowd swayed to the bits they couldn’t dance to (this was jazz in the truest sense) and they threw shapes and reveled in the audience participation when asked. I think the gig was mostly attended by true lovers of the genre (or the man), and as such, was fully appreciated. Nice.

Truly, this set was of epic proportions, for me, there were some slightly self-indulgent transitions and occasionally, mutated and lengthy breaks. But if you can’t do it after 40 years-odd in the business, I guess, when can you?
I was drawn back in again by the explosion of drumming and saxophony (NB.I may have made that word up..). The drummer, Lee Pearson is incredible and was fully working that rig! Some spectacular one-handed showmanship was displayed, jumping crazy-business was lapped-up and duly rewarded by an appreciative crowd. Truly spectacular. Roy Gaskins on keys and alto sax managed to play both simultaneously. This was a stage shared by incredibly talented, passionate, experienced musicians, who had their set down to a tee. All led by a living legend. Can’t really argue with that.

All in all, a wicked, funky, soulful, scatty night all round…



"Thanks to James at Niche for the gig"