Roy Ayers. Roy Ayers. Roy Ayers. That’s the name that springs to mind when listening to Higher. In fact, Ayers is pretty much in the room on He And She, a superb song that features Ayers sound-alike Mr. J. But even when Mr. J isn’t jamming, Ayers’ aura is ever present because Michelle’s cool, measured phrasing is so, well, Ayers-like.
The essence of Ayers is also there in her subtle blending of jazz and soul on elegant songs like Prayer For The Confused and Love Everlasting. Such flattering comparisons may suggest Higher is reverential or retro. It’s neither. UK producer Zed Bias infuses Eager Of The Years with understated broken beats, while contemporary Latin rhythms underpin Who You Are and Madrina.
Those of a clubbier bent will be irked by the album’s smooth, almost temperate quality, but for others who prefer their soul with a jazzier flavour, things are looking up with Higher.