At this point in the year, winter seems like it’s at an end, but whenever spring seems to be really coming in full force, there’s some sleet right around the corner. Seems like a good time for a song about sunshine.
Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” is from his 1976 album of the same name. Ayers is on vocals, vibraphone, and a variety of different keyboards and percussion. He’s joined by Philip Woo on keys, Chano O’Ferral on percussion, Ronald Drayton on guitar, John Solomon on bass, and Doug Rhodes on drums, along with a group of background vocalists labeled “Chicas”. It’s a piece of jazz-funk that’s pretty heavy on the latter part, relying on a very sample-able drum groove, a slinky bassline, and a cool synth sound. At about 0:30, the vocals come in, along with a simple, catchy piano melody over a single sustained string note from a synth. You know, it’s true – folks do get down in the sunshine. This is just a great groove, not about to open up to some instrumental virtuosity in here. The point is to settle into this. At about 2:45, there’s a brief instrumental break for a synth bass, then back to the vocals as the song starts a long fade out.
D’Angelo’s Voodoo sessions spawned his version of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” as an outtake. The personnel on this track is not clear; it could certainly be D’Angelo doing everything you hear on this one. It’s got that same laid-back vibe from Ayers’ original, with an easy drum groove, smooth Rhodes piano, and bass that sounds like it’s also from the Rhodes. Oh, and D’Angelo’s (or is that Curtis Mayfield?) voice on here, perfect for this tune. There’s a brief instrumental break around 1:10 or so, similar to the instrumental break around 2:45 in Ayers’ original. D’Angelo’s vocal ad-libs starting around 1:30 or so are just killing it. At about 2:15, this opens up for a minimal Rhodes solo, mostly making space for the drums to knock. Just before 3:00, they get into a nice groove, improvising a little melody here. Curious where this little jam went after the fade-out, but this is really all about that groove and D’Angelo’s voice.
Takuya Kuroda’s recent Rising Son release featured another version of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, with Kuroda on trumpet, Kris Bowers on keys, Corey King on trombone, Solomon Dorsey on bass, Nate Smith on drums, and José James on vocals. This starts with some spacy chords from the Rhodes, gently panning from left to right, before Smith’s drums come in, hard. (“The kick, snare, the kick and hi-hat…that old boom-bap”) A simple bassline from Dorsey, and then Kuroda’s trumpet starts a laid-back solo to start this tune off. This groove has the feeling of some downtempo jam off of Mo’ Wax’s Headz II compilation or something from that era. At about 2:20, Jose James’ vocals join, and the synth line after the “just bees and things and flowers” vocal is eerily similar to the original synth line on Ayers’ version. At about 3:45 or so, Corey King and Kuroda play some unison horn lines between the vocal phrases, and then at around 4:15, we get that little instrumental break, courtesy of Bowers’ Rhodes. This section is followed by more trumpet soloing from Kuroda. The groove continues, hitting a really nice spot just before 6:00, shortly before James’ vocals return. The background vocals add some nice dimension to this in headphones… back to the “bees and things and flowers” and that synth line around 7:00, punctuated by the horns. Some simple horn vamping over the drums, bass, and Rhodes, and then back to the groove that opened up the tune. They take it out with a sustained Rhodes chord. Very vibey stuff. On a sidenote, Kuroda’s version of this tune apparently grew in part out of a jam on “Park Bench People” with Jose James, at least one version of which is up on youtube.
A jazz/R&B hybrid? Well yeah, sure, the Robert Glasper Experiment has done a version of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Glasper, on keys, is joined by his regular partners Chris Dave on drums, Derrick Hodge on bass, and Casey Benjamin on keytar/vocoder. They’re also joined for this tune by Stefon Harris on vibes and later by Bilal on vocals. This tune was part of a longer tribute to Roy Ayers featuring Stefon Harris and Pete Rock, along with the Robert Glasper Experiment. This version starts out with Harris playing the Roy Ayers lick, though not until 0:30 does this really fall into place with a nice drum break, spacious Rhodes chord, and Harris’ vibe lick. Then Harris opens this tune with a strong vibes solo, backed by spacy vocoder and some tasty keyboard backing from Glasper. Really nice stuff from Stefon Harris around 2:00, playing with the “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” lick and embellishing the basic lick. At about 3:10, Benjamin sings “my life, my life, my life” through the vocoder… At about 4:15, “bees and things and flowers”, and Glasper moves from Rhodes to the acoustic piano. Nice shuffling drums around 5:10 or so as they move into a piano solo for Glasper. At 5:45, Casey Benjamin moves from his keytar/vocoder to the sax… really cool keyboard work around 6:40, with some delay effects and a combination of the acoustic piano and Rhodes underneath Benjamin’s sax solo as they move into a really great instrumental section here. Benjamin’s sax solo comes to a close at about 8:50 and the band is then joined by Bilal on vocals. Benjamin’s vocoder-effected vocals return around 11:00… sort of a direction-less vamp in this section, then Glasper’s chords build back up and just before 14:30, the group finds the groove again… anticlimactic ending to this version of Ayers’ tune, but the section with Casey Benjamin on sax is worth the price of admission here.
This tune is not about instrumental prowess, it’s about a groove and a vibe. It’s a vibe that is much appreciated as I look out at the falling sleet as I write this.