Spyro Gyra has a long
history as a
well-known contemporary jazz
group. Most of the listeners will
remember their famous album "Morning Dance", their first album with a
major label. The title song has still heavy rotation on contemporary
jazz stations. A generation later Spyro Gyra is even now in music
business. The group was founded by Jay Beckenstein (sax) and Jeremy
Wall (keyboards) in the 70's. Jeremy Wall who left the group is now
professor of jazz in NY. Keyboardist Tom Schuman replaced Jeremy Wall
as keyboardist while Wall stayed as an assistant producer and
occasional composer. He even wrote the song "The Lowdown" for this new
album. Further members are now Julio Fernandez (guitar/vocals), Scott
Ambush (bass) and Ludwig Afonso (drums).
Often listeners are complaining that
musicians are recording albums "radio friendly" to receive support by
smooth jazz radio stations. Listening to Spyro Gyra's new album I can
definitely draw conclusion that this group plays their own
unique style. Spyro Gyra isn't hunting after the contemporary
prevailing taste. "After 24 albums, it's not always easy to develop
new material," says leader and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein. "We
usually try to veer away from what we did on our previous record. But
we also try to embrace anything that explores new ground - in any way
Time! This up-tempo tune combines all ingredients of a fresh
live performance. A driving beat, sparkling organ, compelling guitar
slicks and of course Jay Beckenstein's pushing sax. “When we play
live, we want to present what we are excited about now,” Beckenstein
says. “It’s easy to reach your audience with the same four or five
hits, but we have never wanted to become a “nostalgia band.”
Fortunately, our fans have been gracious enough to keep coming to
shows where they know that they will hear a lot of new material and as
well as the occasional completely new version of a familiar song.”
This experience as a longtime live group is a treasury the group can
obviously profit from.
Thunder is one of the rare tunes on this album which fits
into the smooth jazz frame. This slow mellow song is a real melting
ear-greaser in the better sense.
The Voodooyoodoo showcases the
nonchalance of professional musicians. Bassist Scott Ambush wrote this
grooving tune featuring trumpeter
Nathan Eklund. He already
recorded for Spyro Gyra, Craig Yaremko, Annemarie Russell, Rick
Fontaine, Russell Wolff, The Hoppin' Haole Brothers, and Caté. A
trumpet player we will soon hear more about.
The famous guitar player Chuck Loeb
is also a genius writer and producer. The song
Tuesday is his child. Chuck has an
old connection to Spyro Gyra. He already worked as a producer on their
album "Got the Magic". Tuesday is a stomping tune. The lead melody is
played by Jay Beckenstein on sax and flute.
Impressions of Madrid Jay Beckenstein plays soprano sax,
keyboards and percussion, and even sings and plays flute. You wouldn't
recognize that Spyro Gyra plays that tune so authentic Spanish is the
performance. Ex-Spyro Gyra-member Dave Samuels plays Marimba in his
well-known kind of mastership. This tune is of a haunting beauty and
underlines Spyro Gyra's strong relationship to Spanish music.
of Toledo follows up the Spanish flavored theme with spicy
percussion gadgets and a Tom Schuman on piano in an extremely good mood.
Wrapped In A Dream
is an incorporation of the spirit of classical jazz.
This tunes offers more room for Jay Beckenstein's sax improvisations.
Storm is presenting the more edgy face of the group. One can
observe it on most of their concerts. Not smooth but still
melodious. A bit more rock and less smooth jazz.
was written by Tom Schuman. "The process of developing material for
this album was so natural," comments he. "Once we got into the studio.
We sat down, learned the material and played until it felt right. The
impression of ease can only delivered by a real master of the keys.
When I might give a suggestion of the
first single of this album, The Lowdown
would be my first choice. A fluently grooving piece, the pure
invitation to dance.
New York's premier jazz drummer
Ludwig Afonso and keyboardist Tom Schuman penned
Lil' Mono. This rhythm oriented tune has some fusion
flavor in the style which is only presented by the Spyro Gyra since
more than 30 years.
is dedicated to Claire, Jay's wife. It's a première. For the first
time we can listen to Jay Beckenstein's vocals. Listening to the song
I feel myself at home. There is so much familiarity. Julio Fernandez plays an
awesome guitar in "American style" and the horn section is a pleasure.
"Wrapped in A Dream" is contemporary jazz per se on
a high level. Spyro Gyra were and are the protagonists of cjazz. The
beaming vibe of life atmosphere is breathing in every tune of this