Tuesday, August 18, 2015

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Spyro Gyra

Artist:Spyro Gyra
Song:Morning Dance
Album:The Very Best Of Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra are pioneers in what is known today as Smooth Jazz. Of course it wasn't called that when Morning Dance was a crossover hit in 1978. Of course Jazz Fusion as popularized in the early 70s by acts like Weather Report is what Spyro Gyra leader Jay Beckenstein had in mind when the group was formed in 1976. Beckenstein was from Long Island but attended college in Buffalo. In high school, he played sax in clubs with keyboard player Jeremy Wall. In the mid 70s, they played Buffalo clubs mostly playing instrumental covers. Eventually a band was formed. The name Spyro Gyra is a biology term Beckenstein wrote about in college. Wall left Spyro Gyra after Beckenstein's other high school buddy Tom Schuman joined the band. They released an album independently in 1977 featuring guest Dave Samuels on vibes. It attracted interest from the local label Amherst Records and they released the 1979 album Morning Dance. The big surprise was when the single Morning Dance reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart. The song featured a steel drum solo by Dave Samuels. Other guests included John Tropea on guitar, Randy Brecker on trumpet and Michael Brecker on tenor sax. Amherst sold Spyro Gyra's contract to MCA and Spyro Gyra recorded for MCA and GRP for many years. Many guys have bounced in and out of the band. But Beckenstein is the one constant. Schuman is still in the group as well. This comp was released on Verve in 2002. It includes a live version of Morning Dance. Spyro Gyra is much better live than in the studio. They still tour. They left GRP for Telarc in 1998 and since Telarc closed, they have released a couple of CDs independently, most recently in 2013. Here's Spyro Gyra performing Morning Dance at the 1991 Newport Jazz Festival.

1 comment:

  1. They and the Weather Report with their piece "Birdland" were my first introduction to what is now called Smooth Jazz. I really liked "Morning Dance" and still listen to it. A lot of people liked it when it first came out and I remember it being played on the radio stations a great deal. Thank-you for the information about the group and their founder, Frank.