Roy Ayers, Najite, Tony Allen @ Crash Mansion
LIVE ART BY KOFIE
The album cover to the right (Roy Ayers Ubiquity; Polydor, 1971) hangs in what should be my dining room — above a computer desk and just to the left of a solid state guitar amp which has been collecting dust for some three years without pause. Still, it is a prominent wall placement and it brings the room together, I feel. Adds that “Roy” touch. One need but listen to one song off this album to get a sense of what you’re dealing with in Roy Ayers; namely, seriously funky vibes, man. Serious, sticky, funky vibes. Very few jazz vibe players can successfully throw a wah pedal on vibraphones, likely, and so it was then that I found myself in the company of good friends at Crash Mansion last Saturday night for an ArtDontSleep lineup featuring the man himself as headliner.
I’ve sent some people down there in recent days, but this was my first time to personally darken the Crash Mansion door. Up the stairs, DJ room to the right, main room to the left. Bathrooms in the rear. I get a real latter-day Conga Room deja vu vibe, shake it off, continue walking. In the main room now, wide and shallow, we have an extremely loud soundsystem, plenty of bars and a side stage where one Augustine Kofie (aka Kofie One, also responsible for that killer mural at Barack Obama’s Los Angeles Campaign HQ) methodically and quite impressively paints portraits of Roy, Fela, Tony as the evening progresses. There they are, now, check them on the wall so often. Watch them materialize, get filled with shadow and eventually highlighted in brilliant orange. Roy Ayers gets filled in last. Up on center stage Najite, purportedly Fela Kuti’s godson, resplendent in traditional attire and white feather, pounds the drums madly before eventually helming a 12-piece band in what shall be a tribute to Fela this evening. Like the best Fela Kuti numbers these full-band songs are slow burners, to be sure, but when they finally do start to cook you find yourself face to face with a triumphant wall of sound suddenly grasping you, propelling your feet with the undeniable power of funk: horns, percussion, dancers, singers and last but not least the one and only Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s drummer, collaborator and, more recently, the man behind the kit in The Good, The Bad and The Queen right there on stage moving those feet of yours. Goddam.
I must be honest, I was so into this set I didn’t want the afrobeat to end. Roy who? End it did, of course; once Roy started cranking out chestnuts the kids are all digging these days thanks to global tastemakers like Gilles Peterson and various hip hop cognoscenti (“We Live in Brooklyn Baby” , “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”) I’d fully switched gears, remembered what had first drawn my eye to the lineup, and let the good vibes happen. Check the wall again. Ayers is grinning from two stages now. Kofie’s work is done; he’s listening to music like everybody else. What a night! If you were there, you know precisely what everybody outside missed.
UPDATE: I just received word that the below artwork may become available as prints sometime in the near future.