Spyro Gyra Comes to Town

Jazz Fusion band, Spyro Gyra, recently performed a concert in Macon. It was an awesome concert and a chance to hear some familiar favorites by the iconic group, as well as an opportunity to preview new music on the band’s then-upcoming album.

Primarily hailing from Buffalo, NY, Spyro Gyra has been in existence for almost 40 years, performed at over 5,000 live shows, and sold more than ten million albums. The band creates a sound that combines jazz with elements of R&B, funk, pop, and Caribbean music. Jay Beckenstein, founding member of the band, is quoted on their Web site as saying that it was “…funny how people didn’t know what to make of it then [in the beginning], and now it’s so ubiquitous.”

Spyro Gyra was first known simply as “Tuesday Night Jazz Jams,” performing covers of R&B songs around Buffalo, but they quickly began to play at more venues, became the regular house band at a local establishment, and soon started landing opening slots for national acts. Since then, they have become world famous and released 30+ albums (not counting “Best Of…” compilations). The award-winning band has received Grammy nominations for each of their last four albums.

With the exception of founding bandleader Jay Beckenstein (saxophonist and songwriter) and Tom Schuman (keyboardist), the personnel has changed over time, and between the studio and the live stage. Today, Julio Fernandez (guitarist and vocalist) is in his third decade with the band, Scott Ambush (bass player) made his studio debut with Spyro Gyra in 1992 on the album “Three Wishes” and Lee Pearson (drummer and percussionist) joined the group 2011.

The band performed the following set list:

Catching the Sun
I Know What You Mingus
Not Unlike That
Wishful Thinking
Odds Get Even
Daddy’s Got a New Girl
Morning Dance

Some of the photos taken at the concert are posted in the gallery below.

Spyro Gyra music currently in the RetroWarehouse personal collection includes three long-playing vinyl records (LPs) and two compact discs (CDs), as follows:

  • Access All Areas (vinyl) is a live double album of which all songs were written or co-written by members of Spyro Gyro, except “Islands In The Sky” by Jeremy Wall. This album includes live versions of songs from early albums. The “Access All Areas” CD contains a single disc with 10 songs. Although the latest release of this music occured in 1994 on the Amherst Records label, our LP is the original 1984 release.
  • Breakout (vinyl), released in 1986, represents Sypro Gyra’s most experimental set (according to an Amazon review), which makes sense when one considers that on this album the band “…thanks the following equipment manufacturers: Yamaha, Sundown, Pearl, Musser, Zildjian, Washburn, Latin Percussion, Ronaldo and The Bass Shop.”
  • Got The Magic (CD), about which Adam Rains writes “Spyro Gyra can always be counted on to combine studio artistry and some deeply felt playing to create a smooth blend of jazz, Latin, and soul elements. For this CD, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein depends primarily on the core band of keyboardist Tom Schuman, guitarist Julio Fernandez, bassist Scott Ambush, and drummer Joel Rosenblatt, but he’s also enlisted guitarist Chuck Loeb as producer on six cuts. Loeb adds some distinctive touches, such as the classic R&B variations of “Breezeway” with electric piano, vibes, and wah-wah guitar, while his own tune “Pure Mood” is a subtle mix of classical and soul. Beckenstein’s soprano and alto saxes often provide a central focus that’s lyrical and moving, while Fernandez adds distinctive touches on electric and acoustic guitars. British singer Basia adds to the warm Brazilian breeze of ‘Springtime Laughter.'”
  • Love & Other Obsessions (CD), released in 1995 and out of print when we picked up our used copy, this music is once again available for purchase and well worth the investment.

You might consider checking out other music by Spyro Gyra and a compilation video of a few clips recorded at the above-mentioned concert below.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.