Bobbi Humphrey, Roy Ayers September 8, 2006
Bobbie Humphreys and Roy Ayers Fill the Stage at CerritosBy Glen Creason
Two of the founders of jazz fusion came to Cerritos over the weekend and brought with them a large, vocal support group and enough energy to light up Las Vegas for a week. Certainly, there were elements of Vegas in this show featuring flutist Bobbi Humphrey and vibraphonist Roy Ayers with the stage crowded with colorfully dressed performers and the sounds coming in thick, pulsating waves from the hefty ensembles. One half of the show was pretty much on target and showcased marvelous mastery of an instrument and the other went everywhere but to the point. Yet the large crowd seemed to love most of it and said so over and over again. There are those who call Jazz Fusion Acid Jazz and others who term it Jazz F@*&! That side of the story was evident also.
The eppervescent Ms. Humphrey provided instant energy and appropriately opened the proceedings with Lionel Richey’s pop tune “Hello.” As was the case throughout her engaging, energetic set the tunes flowed around her marvelous, mercurial flute solos. When little Miss H puts her lips to that flute magical things happen within the context of the melody. She also lent generous time to a fine band anchored by a drummer, keyboardist and strong bass man whose names where obscured by the steady stream of inebriated patter from audience section-mates. She followed with a swinging “Do You Have Any Sugar” in homage to Stanley Turrentine that had a nice bite to it. The charming and effusive lady upped the voltage with a rollicking Herbie Mann composition then ventured into the mystic with John Coltrane’s “Equinox” that was a fascinating, long journey in sound. Each piece was held together with lengthy soloing and a strong center held by Bobbie Humphrey, especially in her finishing kick of the funky “Home Made Jam” and the dreamy but punchy “Harlem River Drive.”
Roy Ayers on the other hand and half of the show was somewhat perplexing. Certainly, the hall was filled with devotees and the big band onstage seemed to be having great fun. However, Ayers is one of the truly great jazz instrumentalists but his vibes seemed buried in this review. He beamed as he strode around the footlights as “Baby You’ve Got It” bounced off the back walls but the ensemble clowned so much and depended so much on back-up singers and the physical comedy of sax man Ray-Ray. It seemed like the group was channeling the Floaters and Slim and Slam instead of giving help to the master musician. “Sweet Tears” once again seemed misdirected as Ayers sang instead of played and gave up most of the time to others. Simply stated, there just wasn’t anywhere enough electric vibes and too much romantic vocalizing. It was like going to see Luciano Pavarotti and seeing him strum a ukulele. Despite the fact that Ayers fairly sizzled when he put his mallets to the vibes this flash with little substance seemed to go on and on through the fun of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” and even Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “A Night in Tunisia” which set a groove that continued toward hither and thither soloing while Ayers looked on approvingly. Yet, the crowd seemed to enjoy the direction and indeed begged for more after a healthy helping of this brand of Jazz Fusion.