Nov 1, 2019
Forty plus years into their recording and performing career, Spyro Gyra still finds new ways to surprise a listener. Having been a formative band in the fusion scene and then again in the sound that became associated with their time at GRP Records, the band could have every reason to rest on their laurels. However, the past few decades have found the band moving deeper into World Music (A Foreign Affair), deeply improvisational music recorded with no preconceptions in coming into the studio (The Rhinebeck Sessions) and now, with Vinyl Tap, an album of covers of the tunes they grew up hearing. Rather than tackling Coltrane or Monk, these are reimaginings of songs by Cream, Blind Faith, War, and of course, The Beatles,
Saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, one of two members of the band remaining since their recording debut in 1978, (the other is keyboardist Tom Schuman), speaks with me about Vinyl Tap, stressing the collaborative nature of the preparation and recording. The band has only released four studio albums in the past ten years, after releasing nearly an album a year for thirty years, and Beckenstein shares what the band looks for in making a recording and how they continue to be a strong touring act, booked solid across Europe, the Middle East and the US for most of the remainder of the year.
Musical selections from Vinyl Tap on Podcast 711 include “Sunshine of Your Love”, which features a killer bassline by Scott Ambush and topnotch guitar from Julio Fernandez; “What a Fool Believes”, which is given a different beat and feel by drummer Lionel Cordew and keyboardist Schuman; and “Stolen Moments”, the sole jazz based cover on the album, which allows Beckenstein’s sax to soar, as it does on so much of the album. “Catching the Sun”, one of Jay’s compositions that have come to define Spyro Gyra is also included.