Roy Ayers @ Jazz Cafe, London | Gig Review

On my way into the Jazz Café on July 22, a sign in the window possesses some unwelcome news; “Due to medicals reasons, Pete Rock will not be able to perform tonight.” After the initial disappointment wears off, the fact is if it were Ayers who had pulled out the gig would probably have been cancelled, so the audience are even more grateful than usual to see Ayers amble onstage and pick up his trusty mallets tonight.

Backed by a drummer, a keyboardist/saxophonist, backing singer and bassist – the ageless Ayers (70?! Really?!) makes it look oh so easy as he leads the band and audience on a trip through his many classics early in his set. The one two punch of the lush “Searching” and the timeless beauty of “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” has everyone in the venue singing and swaying together and all of a sudden the Jazz Café resembles the atmosphere of an old football stadium terrace.

As ever Ayers has some world-class, consummate professional musicians on hand to make sure the renditions run smoothly. Special praise is reserved for the impeccably funky yet jazzy drummer who never looked in danger of missing a beat and the incredible multi tasking skills of a soulful Rhodes Piano playing Saxophonist. Another highlight is “We Live In Brooklyn Baby” with Ayers playing the gracious showman by citing London as his favourite city to perform in and humorously twisting the song’s chorus into “We live in London baby, we shop in Tesco’s baby!”

A break in set lets Ayers explain that Pete Rock’s absence is due to a back spasm, yet any lingering feeling of what might have been is cast away once Ayer’s runs the mallets across his legendary vibraphone again.

After just over an hour of spell binding musicianship and joyous vibes the band exit stage left while Ayers, ever the people’s champ, stays behind to talk to fans and sign their CDs.

A flawless gig for all those lucky enough to witness a true living legend work his magic.

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