Classics: Down To The Bone feat. Roy Ayers – Electric Vibes (DJ Spinna Remix) (Narada Jazz)
I guess I’ll never thank enough US promoter Giant Step for havin’ sent me these gorgeous electric vibes back in 2007. One of the absolute delights from Down To The Bone‘s ‘Supercharged’ album. And most definitely one of their best jams ever along with ‘Staten Island Groove’. And how could it be different at the end? This with legendary Jazz/Funk icon Roy Ayers adding his own vibraphone parts along with some scats to these electric vibes. Not to mention DJ Spinna softening the whole with his soothing arrangements.
‘Electric Vibes’, meaning by that that dose of electricity in the air to get you willing to bump your head and stomp your feet when comin’ to listen to it…
– The first time one would see a mention of Down To The Bone dates from 1993. This with a remix of ‘Joy Is Free’ for Think Twice. A group DTTB mastermind Stuart Wade was a member of at the time. The latter eventually joinin’ forces with Think Twice keyboardist Simon Greenway. But also Graham Flowers, Neil Angilley and Imaani at the time. Releasing the stellar ‘Staten Island Groove’ back in 1995, then their debut-album – (‘From Manhattan To Staten’) the year after. Thus appearing in the tradition of those solid British bands such as Incognito or Brand New Heavies. With thanks to extra gems such as ‘Yo Mama’s So Phat’.
‘The Urban Grooves – Album II’, its follow-up, just confirmed the impression two years after. This with the killer ‘Long Way From Brooklyn’ and the soothing ‘A Little Touch Of Soul’.
After three albums on Internal Bass, DTTB made a quick stop at GRP for a one-off before switching to Narada Jazz. There, they released another three albums. With the last in the series – ‘Supercharged’ – featuring Hil St Soul on ‘Smile To Shine’. Not to mention Roy Ayers on ‘Electric Vibes’ which received the remixing treatment courtesy of DJ Spinna.
‘Dig It’, their last album to date saw the light back in April 2014.
One of the particularisms of Down To The Bone is the fact that they perform with two different line-ups. With the original one in the UK and the other Stateside.
– Roy Ayers belongs to the category of those who’ve constantly redefined themselves. A reality which has most definitely contributed to the timelessness of his music. This makin’ of it the most sampled by the Rappers.
A native of Los Angeles, CA, Roy grew up in a musical environment. With his dad playin’ trombone and his mom playing piano. This in addition to the area where he lived – South Central – which happened to be the epicenter of the Southern California Black music scene.
He discovered his love for the vibes while attending a Lionel Hampton concert by the age of 5. Receiving his first pair of vibraphone mallets from Hampton himself.
He first studied piano during his high school years though. Having mastered both piano and vibes, he started playing professionally, Jamming with luminaries such as Wayne Henderson and Chico Hamilton among others. Not to mention Herbie Mann with whom he began recording. This bringin’ him to sign his first record deal as a solo artist on Atlantic Records. Then deliver his debut-album – ‘Virgo Vibes’ – back in 1967. Then givin’ birth to Ubiquity. A name he went for because “ubiquity” means a state of being everywhere at the same time. And, in the meantime, a band that saw him sharing the duties with Alphonse Mouzon, Edwin Birdsong and Bernard Purdie among others.
As a matter of fact, Ayers made himself a name as a pioneer of the then emerging Jazz/Funk. This while crafting an impressive series of killer jams where the infectiousness prevails. Beginning with the mythic ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ from his 1976 album of the likes. But also ‘Hey Uh-What You Say Come On’ which Defected Records CEO Simon Dunmore eventually sampled 24 years later. This on his remix of Monie Love‘s ‘Down To Earth’. Meanwhile blending it with Lonnie Liston-Smith & The Cosmic Echoes’ ‘Expansions’.
1978 not only brought ‘Get On Up, Get On Down’ which Joey Negro reworked some 25 years later. But also ‘Running Away’, one of Roy‘s biggest classics. Meanwhile ‘Don’t Stop The Feeling’ (his only top 10 single on the Billboard’s Hot Disco/Dance chart) and ‘Love Will Bring Us Back Together’ saw the light the year after.
Makin’ a move to Columbia in 1984, he delivered ‘In The Dark’ featuring its slammin’ title track. Not to mention the cheeky ‘Poo Poo La La’ which he co-produced with Stanley Clarke. Meanwhile showcasing his ability to rap and come up with suggestive lyrics. The early 90’s seeing him dropping music on his own Uno Melodic label and live albums on Ronnie Scott’s. Then the end of the decade, collaborating with Louie Vega and Kenny Dope. Either on their Nuyorican Soul guise with a remake of ‘Sweet Tears’ which he did back in 1978 as a part of his ‘Let’s Do It’ album. Or as MAW while revisiting his 1982 released ‘Our Time Is Coming’ from his ‘Feeling Good’ album.
Soon after, unreleased music of his from back in the day would see the light on UK label BBE Music. This after Peter Adarkwah came to visit him in NYC. Thus giving birth to ‘Virgin Ubiquity (Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981)’ in 2004. Then a volume II of the likes the year after. And, by that, the opportunity to fully enjoy the timelessness of cuts such as ‘Baby Doll’, ‘Sugar’, ‘I’m Your Mind’ or Liquid Love’ among others.
A master on his own discipline, Ayers has shared the duties / bill with countless other artists. Beginning with the memorable ‘Music Of Many Colours’ along with Afrobeat mogul Fela Kuti back in 1980. A contribution speakin’ of which he never got his money for at the end. Two years later, one could hear him jammin’ along with Rick James on the firing ‘Dance Wit’ Me’. Then back in 1987 with Whitney Houston on ‘Love Will Save The Day’.
We then stumbled upon the rare and underrated ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ along with Rob Alexander in 1994. Meanwhile the end of the decade and the beginning of the third millennium would see him along with House producers. From Scott Grooves and Ferry Ultra. To Kerri Chandler and Dennis Ferrer aka UFP, if not Bah Samba. And I’m not even talkin’ about Hip-Hoppers and / or R&B artists whom he played with. From Coolio to Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and The Roots to name a few. This in addition to British Acid Jazz combo Down To The Bone on the memorable ‘Electric Vibes’ as remixed by DJ Spinna back in 2005.
– A quick look at Spinna‘s biography on Wikipedia unfortunately shows a blatant lack of knowledge by the likes of its writer. The latter rating him as a Hip-Hop producer from Brooklyn. Obviously neglecting by that our brother’s impressive contribution to other genres such as R&B and/or House Music…
Just like Kenny Dope, Spinna has an impressive Hip-Hop background. But he’s first and foremost a New Yorker. Meaning by that that he kept an ear open to everything. And I would tend to think everything as long as it was groovy. This explaining why and how he came to embrace different genres, as a producer but also a remixer. With his impressive legacy pretty much speakin’ for itself as a matter of fact.
The Hip-Hop crowd will most likely remember him for his contribution as a member of The Jigmastas. If not for his remix of ‘Stakes Is High’ for De La Soulby the seond half of the 90’s. Meanwhile those who happen to have both their feet into House Music should have Shaun Escoffery‘s 2001 ‘Days Like This’ first comin’ to their mind while thinkin’ of him.
To be honest, I’ve always found kinda difficult to put a name on Spinna‘s works, unless speakin’ of a classy and updated version of R&B or Soul Music with a groove if not Dance Music edge. Unsurprisingly, he gave an infectious Hip-Hop feel to Cooly’s Hot Box‘s ‘Make Me Happy’ that same year. Then he came to share the bill with Tortured Soul on the classic ‘Fall In Love’ back in 2002.
2003 seeing him givin’ a smooth swingin’ feel to Donnie‘s ‘memorable ‘Cloud 9’, but also reworking ‘You’ for Soulstation on West End Records. With Goapele‘s ‘Closer’, Tamia‘s ‘Still’ and Elements Of Life‘s ‘Better Day’ standing as his 2004’s highlights in addition to Alison Crockett‘s ‘Crossroads’.
Another year on and Spinna would cross the path of Roy Ayers while retouching ‘Holiday’. This before doin’ the same two years later on ‘Electric Vibes’. A masterpiece courtesy of Down To The Bone featuring Roy Ayers. Meanwhile, he would get back with Tortured Soul while remixing ‘Always In Heaven When I’m With You’ back in 2006. Then ‘Why’ in 2007 and ‘Dirty’ in 2013.
Launching his Wonderwax label back in 2003, he shared the bill with Rich Medina on the spoken words led ‘Reality’. Eventually producing the stellar ‘Unconditional Love” for Selan the year after. Then welcoming Gordon Chambers with ‘Never Fall In Love’ in 2007. And he also happened to craft the soothing ‘You Should Be Loving Me’ with Ovasoul7 in 2008. This before producing ‘In My Fantasy’ for Tortured Soul a few months later.
More recently, he infectiously boosted Neal Conway and Dana Weaver‘s ‘Fading Away’. But also ‘You Got This’ for Real Deep with the sultry Jaidene Veda and MdCL. Then we welcomed his rework of Hallex M featuring Darien‘s ‘Feeling’ as our Single Of The Week at the time. This in addition to LeMel Humes‘ ‘Ain’t Nobody Like You’ which received the same treatment from us a few weeks later. Not to mention The Foreign Exchange‘s ‘Body’ which got into our Top 10 back then.