Driven by the effortlessly tuneful, graceful playing and composing of reed-player Jay Beckenstein and a light-touch, globally spiced approach to groove, Spyro Gyra unfortunately became a pivot point in the argument about jazz fusion: Were they true heirs of jazz gravity and genius like the first wave of great fusion bands (from Weather Report to early Pat Metheny Group), or were they the godfathers of lite jazz and ’70s TV themes, just a few stone-throws away from you-know-who, with the Kenny and the G?
Nope. They were and are a genuinely important and delightful fusion band. Yes, they were user-friendly in a way that, say, Weather Report’s I Sing the Body Electric will never be. But truth be told, if Spyro Gyra had not used a steel-drum sound on “Morning Dance,” I am not sure that anyone would have ever mistaken them for crass populists of jazz. Funny how one little sonic meme can do so much damage. They have a dense catalogue dotted with greatness, melodic imagination and an unfailing animation of groove. And Beckenstein has never stopped making new SG records: one every year or two from then to now, suggesting that – rightly – he doesn’t give a f*ck. Listen to 2011’s A Foreign Affair: gorgeous, heavy stuff.
Now that the culture has really awakened to the musical substance of the ’70s and ’80s, be it quiet-storm soul, world-pop or yacht-rock, Spyro Gyra should get theirs. I saw them twice in the ’80s. They were a delightful blast, and I am sure they still are. Spyro Gyra plays at the Towne Crier in Beacon on Friday, February 21. Tickets cost $55 in advance, $60 at the door.
Friday, Feb. 21, 8:30 p.m.
Towne Crier Café
379 Main St., Beacon