It was a nervous time for Melbourne artist Baro in the lead-up to his conversation with legendary jazz musician Roy Ayers. As someone who’s been sampled by more rappers than anyone else, Roy’s sound has probably found its way into your musical memory, even if you’re not specifically a jazz fan. His influence spans multiple genres and generations but the living legend continues to make music out of pure enjoyment and it’s easy to see why he connected so easily with Baro. Ahead of his Australian visit, the pair bonded over love stories and try to make a plan to link up IRL during his tour.
Baro: I wanted to begin by saying I’m a massive fan and it’s crazy to be talking to you on the phone right now. Your album No Stranger to Love is my favourite and ‘Want You’, that shit is the best.
Roy Ayers: Thank you very much.
What was it like coming up in south central LA, making music and your first album in ’62?
Miles Davis was one of my favourite musicians. I got to meet Miles and talk to him which was really wonderful. I played several recordings with Miles on the set. I worked with Herbie Mann who was a great flautist, he was fantastic. Actually, Miles Davis was one of Herbie Mann’s favourite musicians. I like Miles because he knew how to pick great musicians, which set the standard. I always wanted to play with Miles but I never got to play with him. I really regret that.
Was it Herbie Mann that introduced you to Miles Davis?
Let me tell you the story. I told [Herbie] I was going to meet Miles. He said, “Hey man, you gotta watch out ‘cause Miles will hit you in the stomach to see if you in shape.” So when I went to see Miles, I was talking to him and he hit me in the stomach and I was real tight ’cause I didn’t know what he was gonna do. So when he hit me, he said “Ohh, you’re in shape” and I said “Yeah!”. I started laughing because it was so funny. I never forgot that Herbie Hancock said that – if I didn’t know that I could have fallen to my knees. Just a wonderful experience. I will always remember Miles hitting me in the stomach which didn’t really hurt. Miles Davis is a wonderful guy, really fantastic.
To me, you’re the king of making love songs. I wanted to know what inspires you. Is it an individual that inspires you or is it the feeling itself?
So many things became inspirational. I loved Miles Davis’ music. I wanted to go over there, I had dreams of performing with him. It just didn’t happen. I’ve worked with Herbie Mann, we did a show in Kansas City and Miles would open the show. It was Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and another girl. We had such a wonderful time playing music together.
I also did a composition called ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ that was a second version on the Coming to Knowledge album. It’s wonderful to do things I’m excited about doing and they become a reality, it’s just wonderful. Because it’s brand new experiences, I’m experiencing music for the first time. This is a great interview, I’m enjoying it.
Thankyou. I was super nervous about this interview all week.
It’s a pleasure because I’m happy! Standing here, talking to you… from the UK is it?
I’m in Melbourne, Australia.
That’s beautiful. Oh man, that’s lovely. What’s your show called?
It’s for Acclaim but I’m a musician myself.
I love it, man! You gonna play with us? Gonna sit in with us?
Nah, I wanna watch you guys. I don’t think I’m playing.
What do you play?
I’m a vocalist and I play guitar and I’ve been teaching myself the keys.
Yeah, I rap and sing.
That’s wonderful! Music is so wonderful because I was most sampled by rap artists. I can’t believe so many people have sampled me, it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful thing.
You’ve been on the Erykah Badu album with ‘Cleva’ and Tyler The Creator’s album…
[Laughs] I didn’t meet Tyler. He called me from California and said “I like your style, I like what you’re doing, I want you to put vibes on three songs, thank you very much” and everything was cool. Tyler was a very nice guy.
Yeah, he’s one of my favourite artists.
He’s different, very different… So are you coming to New York soon?
Yeah, I’m thinking of coming later in the year.
Well, you got my number right?
Nah I don’t, I’d love to take it though.
Why don’t you take it down?
Yeah, for sure! You also did Erykah Badu’s ‘Cleva’…
Yeah, she’s really nice. I did a few things with Erykah. I did a lot of things with DD Bridgewater, as well. She’s one of my favourite artists because we had an instant rapport.
What is it like working with other artists?
It’s great, it becomes part of the whole system. If you look at the whole thing like I do, if there’s a positive vibe, it’s gonna be positive all the time.
What are the similarities you find working with people these days compared to when you first started out in the ’80s and ’90s?
Things are different with everybody. Everything’s exchangeable, everybody can exchange different things which is the wonderful thing about Tyler The Creator, for example. He was very cool when he was talking on the phone and I felt the coolness of his voice – it was very inspirational and I like him. Everybody has different personalities and and everybody has been really cool. Especially musicians, they’re really special. Enjoying the good vibes. Everybody’s happy.
There’s one last question I want to ask you – one of the questions I’ve always wanted to ask you. Do you remember when you first fell in love?
Yeah, with my first wife. I can remember very well that we broke up also. Then I fell in love with my second wife. I lasted for five years with my first wife and we have a son. Now I have a son and a daughter who work with me and my second wife. So I fell in love with my first wife then that was over and my second wife was right there. It was cool.
So are most love songs based on the feeling in general or on specific people? Like how old were you when you married your first wife?
I was 18 years old. I didn’t plan on marrying my second wife. Matter of fact, I didn’t know I was gonna fall in love with either of my wives. It’s interesting when you fall in love, it’s a forever feeling. It’s very difficult to express oneself between what is love and not love. It’s when you enjoy someone’s company – enjoy them physically, mentally, spiritually. It’s wonderful, the feeling of love has lasted in my life. I love music more than people. But I do love and appreciate my wife.
Thank you for telling me that.
I’m just very happy that I can express those things to you.
Your music is there to make sense of such a complex emotion. You feel something towards someone then you make a song about it. It’s my favourite thing. That goes for every emotion and feeling. I think that’s all for today.
Thank you so much, I appreciate your call. I hope to see you on the set. I hope you can come to the show.
Thank you for your time, man.
Thank you, I love you man.
Love you too!
[Call is disconnected]
Ahhh, Roy? Roy? Roy?
Roy Ayers will playing around Australia in April, including an appearance at Bluesfest. Tickets/details here.
‘Link Up’ is a space for artists to interview one another about things that only artists would understand. You can follow the series here.