For those of us raised under the sign of the DJ, Roy Ayers is a total crate classic -- a jazzbo vibraphonist and bandleader whose records contain a near-infinite number of popularly sampled beats. Hell, 1976's Everybody Loves Sunshine probably contains half the grooves used in acid jazz, hip-hop, and modern soul. What's more, Ayers is granddaddy to the whole smoooooth jazzzz phenomenon -- his early '70s work with the group Ubiquity is all about turning the lights down real low and letting that sexy sax melt you.
Question: Who is the funkiest human being alive? Answer: James Brown -- duh. But keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith easily makes the Top 40. Just snag a copy of Cosmic Funk or Live at the Club Mozambique; not only will you cut a rug, you'll also get a wee bit psychedelic. Back in the Watergate days, Smith was a far-out dude who mixed get-down jazz with hippie freakery. Now that Smith and Ayers are old men, their current sounds are more laid-back, but they haven't lost their soul.