Here is a great listen of Roy Ayers before he was Roy Ayers, compliments of Herbie Mann, who Roy has and continues to credit as one of the musicians who really helped him establish himself as a solo artist.
Although this Herbie Mann album entitled Impressions of the Middle East was very early in Roy Ayers’ career, this was very well into Roy’s playing career with Herbie Mann, and Roy had also gained stripes playing with the influential bassist Leroy Vinnegar in the early 60’s. Before Roy Ayers created his legendary 70’s sound, it was the expanded sound of Herbie Mann that crossed over into different genres, cultures, and worlds, which really pushed the boundaries into directions that few jazz musicians were willing to travel. You can pick up any Herbie Mann album and get a completely different sound and theme, and he surely prided himself in that.
The title of this album doesn’t leave too much for the imagination. What makes this album noteworthy is that an album with a Middle Eastern sound was not only unique for the time period, but it was seldom duplicated. While some songs are jazzier than others, Mann and his sidemen do an excellent job with the theme throughout the album.
Roy Ayers is not featured on all of the songs, but the songs that he is the songs he is featured on (Turkish Coffee, Incense, & Odalisque) contain excellent solos from the young vibesman. Some of the other notable sidemen include Reggie Workman on bass, Bruno Carr on drums, and Carlos “Potato” Valdes on congas.
You may not put this particular album up with your favorite jazz albums of all time, but it is a great listen, and it is also interesting to compare it with other albums during its time period. Herbie Mann always took risks, and his broad and forward thinking philosophy was, and still is greatly appreciated.