This is Spyro Gyra’s fourth disc for Heads Up and their 25th album overall. The band started in the mid-70s, inspired by fusion, pop and R&B and their recordings were immediately popular due to the creative mix of world rhythms into their originals – Brazilian, African and Caribbean sounds. Unlike the formulaic approach of many jazz fusion groups, Spyro Gyra retained a flair for the twist on the expected which endeared them to discriminating listeners. Each album the group attempts to take a new direction in their musical odyssey.
This time a more organic live band sound was their objective. Instead of the superstar soloists they brought aboard for recent albums, they set up guest appearances of younger talents this time. The main recording engineer they brought in is also in his mid-twenties. The band itself penned most of the dozen compositions. Leader Beckenstein penned four of the tunes, including the jazzy title track. For the first time he is heard on both flute and vocals. Keyboardist Tom Schuman is responsible for heavy-grooving Walkin’ Home as well as the edgy Lil’ Mono. Somebody has obviously spent some time in Spain, resulting in the tracks Impressions of Madrid and Toledeo. Spyro Gyra has had nine Grammy nominations and sold 11 million albums. Beckenstein says their long success is due to their fresh ideas which make the band accessible without falling back on past successes.
It should be mentioned that Heads Up’s superb sonic presentation and clever surround-sound mixing contribute mightily to Spyro Gyra’s continuing popularity.
Tracks: Spyro Time, Midnight Thunder, The VoodooYooDoo, Tuesday, Impression of Madrid, Impression of Toledo, Wrapped in a Dream, After the Storm, Walkin’ Home, The Lowdown, Lil’ Mono, Woogitybop.
– John Henry