Dec 1, 2013
One of the first jazz groups I ever had the chance to really dig at college was Spyro Gyra. Not as complex as Weather Report, not as overtly funky as Stanley Clarke, not as guitar driven as Jeff Beck, they stood as a solid middle of road instrumental group in the late Seventies, and one of my gateways to getting into jazz.
It’s forty years later, and the band continues to roll on, gaining and keeping fans. When Spyro Gyra formed in 1974 in Buffalo, New York, the pop charts included names like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad, The Carpenters, Bob Marley & The Wailers and Pink Floyd. In a time when groups from their epoch are doing cover versions of standards, the band continues to gather Grammy nominations for four consecutive albums in the last ten years while touring worldwide year-round.
The Rhinebeck Sessions, the band's 30th album is its first to be written entirely in the studio over the course of just three days. In the early days of April 2013, founder and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and the members of Spyro Gyra entered a recording studio in Rhinebeck, NY, a small town in the Hudson Valley not far from Woodstock. Beckenstein and his bandmates – Tom Schuman (piano & keyboards), Julio Fernandez (guitars), Scott Ambush (bass) and Lee Pearson (drums) – set out to do something that they had never done before in their nearly forty year history – improvise with each other over three days and in the process write and record an entire new album.
My conversation with Jay Beckenstein is wonderfully open and honest; as he tells of his desire to avoid the band’s overdubbing and tinkering with recordings in search of a more “live in the studio” sound. After a few listens, I think you will agree that he succeeded admirably.
Podcast 394 is our conversation including his comments on the band’s upcoming 40th Anniversary as a working group and the 35th Anniversary of their Platinum-selling Morning Dance, which the band plans to play in its entirety on several shows. Musical selections include:
Syro Gyra – Title Track from Catching the Sun.
Spyro Gyra - Title Track from Morning Dance.