At what point does the concept of a remix become incoherent in relation to the original? Roy Ayers straddled a number of genres: The master of the vibes imprinted his sound on hard bopping jazz, but he also presided over the wonderful fusion of sound that brought funk into the world and lent his ethereal touch to a world of sultry soul music. Virgin Ubiquity Remixed provides an array of mixes, though the dominant sound tends to spring from the house world, on tracks that occasionally miss the spirit of the original.
The BBE label excels at probing the fusion of music from a beat-head’s perspective; the label’s Beat Generation series has given hip-hop producers a chance to come into the foreground from their boards, and in almost every case the music from the likes of King Britt or Rich Medina ignores stiff genre boundaries in favor of a more inclusionary mix. So don’t get it twisted: If a house producer takes a Roy Ayers track, that’s fine; it’s not like the man didn’t do his share of disco tracks, and house is just disco updated, right? Still, Ayers forms a major breakbeat backbone to the hip-hop world; where would Brand Nubian be without “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” or Digable Planets without “We Live in Brooklyn, Baby”?
You won’t find those tracks remixed; the compilation devotes itself to unearthing rare tracks, the most recognizable of which is “Mystic Voyage,” which gets a competent if somewhat predictable drum ‘n’ bass reworking, right down to the unnecessary diva wailing, from DJ Marky & XRS. It’s ironic, or perfectly apt, that the most satisfying effort comes from hip-hop representatives, lauded newbies Platinum Pied Pipers, whose “Funk in the Hole” clocks in at a refreshing five-and-a-half minutes and rides its funk track with breezy horns and muted bass tones. “Tarzan,” as mixed by Osunlade, presents an interesting aesthetic, with its tribal beat-box underpinnings and gospel jazz chorus providing a vaulted ceiling to the soft carpeting of Ayers’s vibe work.
Speaking of vibes, where the hell are they? They’re there, but they’re almost always in muted form, with the thumping programmed drums mashing their light beauty into submission. Exceptions do exist, such as the Sean P mix of “Touch of Class,” which puts Ayers’s exuberant vibe work to good use over a rollicking drum track. Unlike other tracks here, this one’s a longer track that builds momentum as it hits its home stretch. To hear Ayers’s spirit, soft and lovely but never lacking a cool funk attitude, halved in tracks twice as long as he would have needed fails the test of a good remix, which is to enhance or otherwise inflect the original spirit. Despite having a double album to explore the man’s music, Virgin Ubiquity Remixed falls short of expressing the full spectrum of Ayers’s influence.
Roy Ayers Web site (with streaming audio/video)BBE Music Web site