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In 2014, the Buffalo, NY band Spyro Gyra will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Indeed, a remarkable feat. Well-known for cross- pollinating contemporary jazz with jazz-fusion, the musicians merge an amenable game plan with engaging melodies and largely buoyant grooves amid a sense of bravado, stemming from their formidable chops and intense improv segments. The group locks into a bevy of spunky motifs, complete with tuneful hooks and pumping rhythms. They delve into jazz-funk, Latin and mainstream jazz, along with a few works that intimate romance or lament.
In true jazz fashion, the artists' stretch out and colorize the grand schema with the acoustic-electric instrumentation mix. And they deliver an interrelated array of thematic movements , including the edgy sax and guitar driven ballad "Wishful Thinking," where they craft several emotive attributes via Jay Beckenstein's singing sax lines and Tom Schuman's jazz-blues piano voicings. Here, they bridge melancholia with optimism.
"I Know What You Mingus"a sly play on wordsis a modern mainstream swing vamp, extended with alternating tempos and Beckenstein's gutsy soul-drenched solo spot as drummer Lee Pearson takes the band towards the finale with a sweeping polyrhythmic breakaway. Needless to state, the quintet's dynamism yields a hearty exhibition and the memorable chorusesin a loose senseserve as timestamps for the soloists' diversionary tactics and revved up soloing jaunts. For example, on the perky "Clubhouse Jam," the frontline generates odd- metered contrasts and punchy accents, largely executed by Schuman's brisk electric piano block chords and synth phrasings. Otherwise, Pearson knocks it out of the park during "Odds Get Even." 39-years as a musical entity parallels the celebratory vibe that is strikingly discernible on The Rhinebeck Sessions.
Track Listing: Serious Delivery; Wishful Thinking; Not Unlike That; Sorbet; I Know What
You Mingus; Off The Cuff; Clubhouse Jam; Odds Get Even; Who Knew!
Personnel: Jay Beckenstein: saxophones; Tom Schuman: keyboards; Julio Fernandez:
guitars; Scott Ambush: bass; Lee Pearson: drums & percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.