Spyro Gyra,
Original Cinema
(Crosseyed Bear, 2003)

Spyro Gyra, a corruption of the name of the algae spirogyra, commonly known as pond scum, has been around for over 20 years. Their joking name is familiar, and the sound remembered from their chart successes ("Morning Dance" and "Shaker Song" from the late '70s) is a blend of jazz and R&B. This latest CD proves they are as successful as ever at their unique meld of cool jazz with hot Latin and laid-back R&B. Their recordings over two decades may be considered a true contemporary jazz legacy and their fizzing fusion of styles has certainly influenced other performers of jazz-related music.

Original Cinema is a departure in style to some extent for Spyro Gyra, which is led by Jay Beckenstein (sax and producer). He was, in effect, fed up with the categorization of the band's music style and felt the band had recently been more concerned with appealing to smooth jazz aficionados rather than presenting its original feeling and style. Here, he deliberately steers away from the previous safe center that he felt the band should no longer inhabit, presenting some darker melodies that he rightly claims add depth to the tunes. The other band members provided more original compositions in similar freewheeling vein, and we reap the rewards of the recorded results.

Despite all the talk of departures from their previous route as soon as this CD starts to play, it is obvious why Spyro Gyra is unforgettable. Despite eluding the confines of exact categorization, the sound is unmistakeable and immediately recognisable as their own. The smooth and scintillating rhythms created by this talented bunch on sax, keyboards (Tom Schuman), guitars (Julio Fernandez), bass (Scott Ambush) and drums (Joel Rosenblatt) defy absolute definition and simply slide sensuously around you until you go with the flow. Guest artists, notably Dave Samuels on vibes and Andy Narell on steel drums, complement the core band's sound beautifully. Although I find it impossible to isolate one favorite track, my top picks include "Party of Seven" and "Cape Town Love," both of which feature Samuels and Narell.

This is an essential purchase both for Spyro Gyra fans and those who have forgotten why that name sounds so familiar -- listen to Original Cinema and get some pure sound relaxation back into your life!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 7 June 2003

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