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Spyro Gyra

Founded in 1974 by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, Spyro Gyra have consistently been one of the commercially successfully pop-jazz groups of the past 30 years. The band became a full-time venture in 1976 and has been touring ever since. Critics love to attack this band's music, which combines R&B and elements of pop and Caribbean music with jazz, but its live performances are often stimulating -- unlike many of its records, which emphasize the danceable melodies.

The roots of Spyro Gyra lay in Buffalo, NY, in 1974. Beckenstein and his longtime friend, keyboardist Jeremy Wall, had been leading a group with a revolving membership; every one of the many members in the band were loosely involved in the local jazz and rock scenes. Around 1974, the group was beginning to gel and cultivate a following. A club owner who wanted to advertise an upcoming appearance by the band asked Beckenstein for the group's name. The saxophonist told him "Spirogyra," a word he learned in a college biology course. The owner misspelled the word as Spyro Gyra, and the band fell into place, featuring Beckenstein, Wall, Jim Kurzdorfer, and Tom Walsh. Not long afterward, the group added keyboardist Tom Schuman. Electric guitarist Chet Catallo, drummer Eli Konikoff, and percussionist Gerardo Velez all joined in 1978 (with Wall dropping out) and bassist David Wofford was added in 1980.

Spyro Gyra independently funded and recorded their debut album, releasing the record on the local independent label Amherst in 1976. The record slowly became a success and Amherst sold the rights to the band to Infinity Records, a division of MCA. Wall left the band in 1978, leaving Schuman as the group's main keyboardist. Morning Dance, their first album for Infinity, was released in 1979. The record became a major hit, spawning a Top 40 single with "Morning Dance" and going platinum. Morning Dance firmly placed Spyro Gyra as one of the most popular artists in contemporary jazz, and throughout the '80s, their popularity continued growing. Their albums were consistent best-sellers, and their concerts often sold out. In 1983, vibraphonist and marimba player Dave Samuels -- who had played on several of the group's albums -- became a full-fledged member of the band. Over the course of the '80s, the membership of Spyro Gyra fluctuated, but Beckenstein and Schuman remained at its core, keeping the group's signature sound intact.

In 1990, MCA's jazz roster was absorbed by GRP, so Spyro Gyra switched labels, releasing Fast Forward, their first album for GRP, later that year. In 1993, Samuels left the touring band, but he continued to play in the studio. By the late '90s, the band featured Beckenstein, Schuman, Julio Fernandez, Joel Rosenblatt, and Scott Ambush, and released Got the Magic in 1999. Two years later the band moved to the Telarc-affiliated Heads Up label and released In Modern Times in 2001, followed by Original Cinema in 2003. Drummer Rosenblatt left the band and was replaced by Ludwig Afonso for 2004's Deep End. A fourth Heads Up album, Good to Go-Go, was issued in 2007. The holiday album A Night Before Christmas followed in 2008. ~ Scott Yanow & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

avocruz
One of many great jazz group. This group and The Rippingtons are my favorites. Puedo escucharlos todo el día y la noche.
nice beat
Love spyro gyra just what tha dr. Order yeses baby
These guys are awesome!!!!
I love Spyro Gyra they are the best! My Favorite song of theirs is Ariana and it just so happens that my Dad is Jeremy Wall and he wrote it for me when I was a little girl, and danced to it with me on my wedding day while the band played it... It was magical :-)
Bring IT!
wfr1947
They have a song, "Access All Areas". It has a special meaning for me.
techcamp1
I'm a huge fan, been listening since early 70's!
Yup!!! Great!!!! ;-)
To me they sound better in the spring, summer and early fall, but more sonin the SUMMER.
terryleeturn e r
Saw them live WAY back in the early 80s in -- of all places -- the Cincinnati Zoo. Even though the stage was a makeshift deal outdoors, it was one of the best live shows I've seen. Been a fan ever since.
Spyro gyra always was smooth
Very mellow, I like this song
Beckenstein and crew are amazing, i like Samuels.
soothing,mak e s me think about summer
deaton2007
Just enjoyed Chet Catella tonight here in a little bar in Fairport NY. Tuesday night Jam at The Landing Bar and Grill us always amazing.
brrys2_710
consistent tight jams from them. Change is always an inevitable part of anything, and their sound only mirrors that. Still enjoy them through the years.
They've lost a lot of the edge they used to have playing at the old Tralf back in my college days. It pains me to say it but they now sound a bit like good elevator music. I still love the Morning Dance album.
Got to see them at the Beacon Theater in New York along with Bob James
This group is hot like that... Luvin it... ;-)
marym12125
If you LOVE jazz this group is IT! Great sound! Love it!
Great sounds and the guitar is wonderful and the sax
Got hooked on SJ in the 80's hearing Morning Dance on a rock n roll station in Seattle. Been hooked ever since!!!
Saw them in Dallas and loved every moment of the show. Great show and great venue!!!!!!
My first jazz album! Yea it's been that long ago
Morning Dance turned me forever to SJ.
This group started me listening to SJ back in the 80's. GREAT GROUP!!!
kbluesax2000
This is just plain 'feel good' music. Takes me out of myself to somewhere I'm sure I wanna be.
Fell in love with this group in the 70's. STILL LOVE THEIR SOUND!!!!
Oh, Jay if you are reading this...Thank You!!
bigelowfoy
When CD players first became available... . a n d CDs were hard to come by!...one of their albums was the first CD I bought....I still love them.
One of my favorite groups. They have withstood the test of time. A rarity for groups anymore. Saw them perform in Miami many years ago on the jazz under the stars series when love 94 was still on the air. A true jazz treat.
....one of their best albums...gre a t music from them....have the cassette and the cd........ye a h love this groups music....... . .
nice sounds from this group.
ncolosi
My son is a tween and loves Spyro Gyra. He thinks main stream pop and rap is crap!!
I saw Spyro Gyra in NYC a few years ago overlooking the water. It WAS FABUTASTIC!! ! ! ! Love them!!!!
I saw them in the early 80's in Santa Cruz, Ca. They were AMAZING!!!
Love some Spyro Gyro.... You also have to check out Art Porter when you get a chance.
This is the classic music of western NY--Eastman School, in Rochester, NY. All the summer festivals featured bands playing this music--pulle d the community together, got us all dancin' and groovin'. Spyro Gyro is the quintessenti a l example.
Thesh guys opened a new door in music for me from what we call Classic Rock today now it's all I WANT... Thanks Spyro GYRA.
Indescribabl e !
just listen an if you never knew what real music was now you know!!!!!!!
KNOW ABOUT THE COOLNESS OF THIS BAND,SINCE JAZZ CAME TO-----LINCO I N CENTER, N.Y.C.
Spyro Gyra is a amazing ban....I've been a fan for more than 25 years
this is the type of music when you riding down the highway on nice sumer evening with the top down!!
takins27
Amazing shows!!!
I caught the drum top after second encore at Ravinia outside of Chicago under the stars as they toured Alternating Currents in early 80's. One of the best shows of my life!
None of the Critics can play any instrument.. . t h a t ' s why they're Critics and oh so Trendy.
valeriorafae l 5 8 8
thes best group of musicins forever,exce l l e n t , o h yea.!!!!
love u guys
Viva jazz
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