Spyro Gyra

Sample this concert
  1. 1Shaker Song04:26
  2. 2Leticia06:01
  3. 3Mead04:53
  4. 4Pygmy Funk05:26
Liner Notes

Jay Beckenstein - sax, percussion; Freddy Rapillo - guitar; Eli Konikoff - drums; Jim Kurzdorfer - bass; Gerardo Velez - percussion; Tom Schuman - piano, keyboards, synthesizer,; Jeremy Wall - organ, synthesizer, percussion, piano

This four-song set captures Spyro Gyra just before their commercial breakthrough, 1979's Morning Dance, would establish the instrumental contemporary jazz act as a platinum artist. Emerging from the Buffalo, NY club scene, the group was formed by sax player Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall while they were attending college. Both musicians had been moonlighting as jazz players and in-demand session musicians in the often busy Buffalo scene.

Beckenstein would often call Wall up and put together last minute bands to take gigs as they came down the pike. One such show asked for the name of the group. Beckenstein responded by saying they were called "Spirogira," a term he had heard that week in his biology class. The club owner misspelled it as Spyro Gyra, and the name stuck.

The group signed to Lenny Silver's independent Amherst Records (named after the Buffalo suburb where Silver lived). Silver owned a successful chain of record stores in upstate New York called Record Theater, which obviously pushed the band's first record for several weeks. The promotional efforts paid off. The group's self-titled debut album in 1977 garnered enough attention and sales for MCA to take over the group's contract for its new imprint, Infinity Records. When Infinity folded in 1981, the group became an MCA act.

It was the group's second album, Morning Dance, released in 1979 that broke the band nationally and eventually took it to platinum status. This show, recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, features four tracks, the most popular of which is opener "Shaker Song," a Top 40 hit that crossed the group over to mainstream audiences.

The band made several more albums for MCA, but none had the commercial impact of the discs they made in the beginning. In 1990, MCA closed its jazz division and moved the acts to its subsidiary, GRP. They remained with GRP until 2001, when they moved again to Heads Up Records. The band continues to record and tour today, but only Jay Beckenstein remains from the original line-up.