The contemporary jazz group Spyro Gyra first captured the imagination of listeners with their #1 pop instrumental "Morning Dance" in 1979. With the release of an album a year and tours to every corner of the globe, Spyro Gyra has become one of the most requested acts on jazz radio. This year marks the group's 25th anniversary, which comes with a new album and a new record label.
Nobody knows Spyro Gyra's history better than founder and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein who admits that it's still a mystery how a song like "Morning Dance" turned a band from Buffalo, New York into an overnight success. He said, "The thing that really brought us to the attention of the public was one song, 'Morning Dance.' And who's to say what made that happen. It was the right song for the right time with the right record company and things just fell into place. The stars were in line and we had a hit."
Jay Beckenstein formed Syro Gyra with friends from the local Buffalo jazz and rock scene. They recorded their first album for a small, independent label in 1976. Three years later, they were offered a bigger contract by MCA Records which released their best-selling album "Morning Dance." Always difficult to label, Spyro Gyra is, according to Jay Beckenstein, "simply a group of five guys who play well together, who write good melodies and great songs."
Spyro Gyra's new album "In Modern Times" on Heads Up International features longtime members Tom Schuman on keyboards, Julio Fernanadez on guitar, Scott Ambush on bass, Joel Rosenblatt on drums and Beckenstein on sax.
Though some have come and gone, Beckenstein believes Spyro Gyra just gets better with age. "I think the changes in the band have been gradual," he said, "and they've followed some gradual changes in personnel. There've been times when people have gone on to other things for some reason or another, and I've always seen them as opportunities to inject some fresh life into the band. And my tendency over the years when these choices come up has been to go after real jazz players, people that could really improvise. Not necessarily the pop thing or the R&B thing, but the first base that had to be covered was that you could really play jazz."
All five members contributed songs to Spyro Gyra's 25th anniversary album, including the cut "Planet J" by drummer Joel Rosenblatt. The album features the group's trademark blend of jazz, pop, R&B and Latin music.
Upcoming concerts on Spyro Gyra's current tour include the Winter Park Jazz Festival in Colorado, Birmingham Jazz Fest in Michigan and the Planting Fields Summer Festival in Long Island, New York.