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 Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Harmonicus Rex" CD/LP/Track Review Harmonicus Rex
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 21, 2016
Read "Saints and Sinners" CD/LP/Track Review Saints and Sinners
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2016
Read "windS" CD/LP/Track Review windS
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "The Invariant" CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Back Home" CD/LP/Track Review Back Home
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 15, 2016
Read "Journey To The Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Journey To The Heart
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!