Black History month is almost over but to paraphrase a well-worn saying, it ain’t over til Roy Ayers lays it down. The soul jazz legend graciously allowed Okayplayer TV’s cameras into his beautiful Harlem apartment not long ago, to play “The Questions” game with us and discuss his decades-deep catalog of music, particularly his inter-generational love affair with hip-hop. But the conversation turned into an unlooked-for Black History Month lesson when Ayers revealed that the space originally belonged to none other than James Baldwin and shared his memories and impressions of the writer and activist, in so many ways the driving intellectual force of the civil rights era. You know your a badass when Malcolm X says about you: “the press doesn’t want to talk to James Baldwin because he tells it like it is.”Malcolm X said that.
For us, the window into Harlem history was a bit like being able to camp out on a roof with Malcolm and Red Foxx for an afternoon and we almost forgot to ask Ayers all our questions about music. We got plenty of that too, though, including Ayer’s co-sign on the young jazz lions Roy Hargrove (trumpet) and Stefon Harris (vibraphone, natch). Ayers also gave shouts out Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys and even delved into some Blaxploitation History Month with his account of being asked to score the classic Pam Grier vehicle Coffy. And all that was before he gave us a tour of the bedroom! Watch below: