Roy Ayers

About two years ago, I wrote three tunes with a sister by the name of Sandra St. Victor, who was formerly the lead singer of the group The Family Stand in the late '80s and early '90s. She's originally from Dallas and an Arts Magnet alumnus; we met through my DJ, Bobby Dee, who was working with her dad at the Dallas Museum of Art. She had heard some of my music and wanted to record some tracks for her sophomore album on Warner Bros. Records. Out of three tunes we came up with, one was chosen by the label; "Dizzy" was the title, but, unfortunately, it was never released. While demoing the songs at the studio where I work, Sandra suggested we get different musicians to do the version that would appear on the album. She suggested B.R.O. the R.? (Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, drummer for The Roots), the legendary Donald Byrd, and on vibraphone, Roy Ayers.

To a hip-hop producer like myself, it was an all-star lineup, and I was ecstatic. See, I knew of Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd by way of hip-hop. These cats have been sampled -- if that's what you call having your whole song used -- by a slew of hip-hop and R&B artists, such as A Tribe Called Quest, Grand Puba, Black Moon, Digable Planets, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu. Sandra, on the other hand, knew of Roy Ayers because she was one of his background singers in the '70s; she had been around the world with Roy and knew him well. Sandra assured me that it would be no problem to get these cats on the song, and the next thing I knew, I was on a flight to New York, staying in a dope-ass hotel (the SoHo Grand in SoHo), and about to lay down the tune at Electric Ladyland Studios, Jimi Hendrix's old place. I must admit, I was nervous at first when the time came to lay the song down. These cats are idols to me, and I was honored to have them on my song. After all, when my band Shabazz 3 won the Best Unsigned Band Award in 1996 from Musician magazine, they asked what were some of my musical influences; I answered Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd.

Meeting Roy is something I'll never forget. I remember he wore this multicolored trench coat that was as energetic as his spirit. He was vibrant and soulful, a real cool brotha. When I looked at him, I couldn't help but hear his tunes in my head -- songs such as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby," and especially this 1976 tune called "Searching," which Erykah Badu covered on her 1997 live album. I got myself together and got in my producer mode and proceeded to show him my chord progressions. Roy cut his part in about three takes; that was it. He had to leave, and I was never able to thank him for playing on my song. Donald Byrd came in later that evening, and my nervousness started all over again. "Dizzy" was the first song Roy and Donald played on together, and I'd just like to thank them for it. I can only hope my tune will be as timeless as theirs.

-- Ty Macklin