471

Spyro Gyra: Down the Wire

Woodrow Wilkins By

Sign in to view read count
Spyro Gyra: Down the Wire It's been 30 years since Spyro Gyra released their one and only crossover hit, "Morning Dance." Changes in how decisions are made as to what gets played on the radio pretty much guarantee the group will not score another; that's unfortunate, because they continue to make eye-opening, jaw-dropping music.

Down the Wire is a set of 11 new songs, all composed by members of the group: Jay Beckenstein, saxophones; Julio Fernandez, guitars; Tom Schuman, keyboards; Scott Ambush, bass; and Bonny "Bonny B" Bonaparte, drums, percussion and vocals. The group has scored several Grammy nominations, but is the perpetual bridesmaid when it comes to actually winning. Taking its early cues from Weather Report and Chick Corea and Return to Forever, its music crosses several genres: straight jazz, funk, fusion, blues, Latin, Brazilian and instrumental pop.

Ambush's funk-driven bass line opens the title song, which he also wrote; Fernandez, Schuman and Bonny B set the background, with Ambush and Beckenstein leading the way. The bass gets in some rapid-fire action on the bridge; after an alto sax solo and another bass-led bridge, Fernandez goes on a trip of his own. Ambush comes back with another solo before he and Beckenstein resume the melody— through it all, Schuman and Bonny B show that they're not merely background, but active parts of this tapestry; bass and sax trade turns during the song's final sequence.

"The Tippin' Point" is one of those songs that defies those who would pigeonhole this band as a smooth jazz act. Written by Beckenstein and Schuman, this up-tempo piece brings some old-school jazz flavor to the party; Beckenstein leads on tenor while Ambush gives some vintage bass lines and Bonny B taps the hi-hat in the finest jazz tradition. The middle break features Schuman on piano, leading what amounts to an acoustic trio; Beckenstein's tenor solo ranks among some of his best (e.g. "Whitewater," "Birks Law" and "East River Blue").

Bonny B wrote the riveting "Ice Mountain," a song that shows how easily the group can shift from one style to another; in this case, from straight-ahead to fusion. It's difficult not to think of Weather Report, with the blending of sax, keyboards, guitar, bass and drums right out of the Zawinul-Shorter-Pastorius handbook, especially when two or more players strike the same notes at blazing, stop-time speed. And when they all go in different directions, buckle up, because there's quite a ride ahead.

Gerardo Velez, the group's full-time percussionist during the middle 1980s, guests on two tracks—Fernandez's "Unspoken" and Ambush's "A Flower for Annie Jeanette." Another Spyro Gyra alum, Marc Quinones, appears on Beckenstein's "La Zona Rosa" along with a three-piece horn section. Down the Wire, borrowed from a line by the founder of the Flying Wallendas, is an apt summation of life and music.


Track Listing: Down the Wire; Unspoken; Not for Nothin'; Island Pond; The Tippin' Point; Ice Mountain; A Flower for Annie Jeanette; La Zona Rosa; What It Is; A Distant Memory; Make It Mine.

Personnel: Tom Schuman: keyboards; Scott Ambush: bass; Jay Beckenstein: saxophones; Bonny B: drums, percussion, vocals; Julio Fernandez: guitars; Marc Quinones: percussion (8); Gerardo Velez: percussion (2, 7); Don Harris: trumpet (8); Bill Harris: tenor sax and flute (8); Ozzie Melendez: trombone (8).

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Heads Up International | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Old Locks And Irregular Verbs" CD/LP/Track Review Old Locks And Irregular Verbs
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 18, 2016
Read "Eight Track II" CD/LP/Track Review Eight Track II
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 1, 2016
Read "Ensam" CD/LP/Track Review Ensam
by Ian Patterson
Published: August 26, 2016
Read "For The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review For The Unknown
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 19, 2016
Read "Live in Seattle" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Seattle
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke" CD/LP/Track Review A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 9, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!