Roy Ayres Snubbed
by Mark Ruffin
Any astute fan of Roy Ayers who has seen Jackie Brown must have been surprised by the clever use of the vibraphonist’s music from Pam Grier’s 1973 movie Coffy. Ayers, certainly was surprised.
“I was very shocked,” he said by phone from his New York City office. ” I went to see the movie because I heard it was good. I’m looking at the movie and my wife is sitting next to me and I hear the music and I said Audrey, that’s my music. Then it happens again and again. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that they put my music in the middle of that movie. “You know, most of time I usually leave when it says ‘the end.’ This time I stayed to see it. I said to her that if they don’t give me credit, we’re going to sue them to death. My lawyer is looking into it.”
Erikah Badu and Mary J. Blige certainly had no problem tracking Ayers down when they wanted to use his music. Both have recently recorded versions of his classic tune Searching, with the latter vocalist inviting Ayers to play his vibes on the track. ” So I’ve got two of the new young divas doing my music and I thought about it and said wow, that’s fantastic, but nobody working in (Jackie Brown director Quentin Tarantino’s) organization had the sense to call me out of politeness and respect. I don’t understand that”
Ayers sees this slight from Tarantino as part of a continuing trend in the entertainment business where huge corporations continually show disrespect, if not contempt, for any artists not pulling in millions of dollars. In describing most artists who record their masters for major record companies, Ayers punned and used a slavery analogy saying the record company not only owned the recording master, they owned the artist.
That’s why he’s putting his money where his mallets are and starting his own record company. The label is called AFI and his first release, Spoken Word hits the stores next month. The album features recitations by Roy Ayers and a young actress named Bonita Brisker. A new version of his 70’s classic Everybody Loves The Sunshine is included on the cd. “There are a lot of spoken word projects going around out there,” he said. ” I’ve heard a couple but mine is a little different, if only because it’s Roy Ayers. I was almost rapping before rappers. Back in the 70’s I was always talking in the songs to help get the message across. I guess the concept has always been there for me. Maybe that’s why so many of the young people out here are sampling my music.”
Ayers insisted that ever since the acid jazz movement brought rappers and jazz artists together, he has been treated with nothing but respect. Beginning in 1970, he recorded 20 albums for Polydor in twelve years and many of those tracks have been sampled by such 90’s hip-hoppers as A Tribe Called Quest, Galliano, Brand Nubian and Gangstarr. Rapper Guru even had Ayers tour with him for his 1993 project Jazzamatazz. He said sometimes that he was humbled by the respect shown him, which is a lot more than he’s getting from Hollywood
To Tarentino’s credit, all four of the songs he used from Coffy are credited correctly on screen and there’s even a special thank you to Roy Ayers at the end. “What’s up with that?” the musician exclaimed. “What’s ironic is I think they used more of my music than the film I originally wrote the music for. And here’s the worse part. I went to pick up the soundtrack album and none of my music is on there. But I don’t worry about it and I don’t blame Pam Grier, it was not her responsibility.
He then lets out a wicked laugh and thought about the possibilities, “you know that movie grossed eight million dollars last week.”