The first time most of America “met” Nathaniel Ayers was through Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of the schizophrenic musician in 2009 movie, The Soloist. But soon we’ll get to hear from him again—this time through his music—with a little help from some fellow musicians like Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea.
Although the recording process has been painfully trying at times (“As for the CD, he’d back off one day, calling it a terrible idea. And then he’d be ready to roll the next day,” writes friend and L.A. Times journalist Steve Lopez.), Putting on Ayers is nearing completion.
Lopez says Flea began e-mailing him a few years ago, expressing an interest in playing with Ayers. They were finally able to make the collaboration possible, and L.A. Philharmonic pianist Joanne Pearce Martin and violinist Robert Gupta filled out the ensemble.
The result is a little all over the place, apparently. Ayers’ playing, Lopez reports, was sometimes manic, sometimes blues-y, sometimes haunting. Still, Gupta says, the man’s talent is undeniably present. “What I notice in him when we play together is a sort of different glint in his eyes; there’s a different character,” Gupta says. “It’s the student at Juilliard, the really brilliant, talented, quick student. That hasn’t gone away.”
Putting on Ayers doesn’t yet have a set release date, but will be available through the the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, with proceeds going toward arts programs at mental health facilities.