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SPYRO GYRA

Spyro Gyra

Jay Beckenstein, sax
Julio Fernandez, g
Tom Schuman, keyb
Scott Ambush, b
Lionel Cordew, dr

As Spyro Gyra contemplates upcoming milestones to its storied career, it’s tempting to fall back on the Grateful Dead lyric, “What a long strange trip it’s been” to describe it. During that time, they have performed over five thousand shows, released twenty-nine albums selling over ten million albums while also achieving one platinum and two gold albums. These upcoming milestones include 2014 which is forty years as a band. They show little sign of wanting to slow down either, gaining Grammy nominations for each of their last four albums. Born in Brooklyn, bandleader Jay Beckenstein grew up listening to the music of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, and started playing the saxophone at age seven. During summer breaks, he and an old high school friend, keyboardist Jeremy Wall, played gigs together back on Long Island. Wall attended college in California, and after both graduated, Beckenstein stayed in Buffalo’s thriving music scene, where Wall eventually joined him. Spyro Gyra was first known simply as “Tuesday Night Jazz Jams,” a forum wherein Beckenstein and Wall were joined by a rotating cast of characters. Around this time, a young keyboardist named Tom Schuman began sitting in when he was only sixteen years old. This young man, of course, remains a member to this day. In their earliest days, Spyro Gyra took their cues from Weather Report and Return to Forever – bands whose creative flights were fueled by a willingness to do things that had never been done before. The first few years saw the group’s identity split into a dynamic live act and a producer centric recording process. These albums were the product of the band and a great number of the top session players in New York. In 1983, Beckenstein made the decision to make the albums the work of the band members he shared the stage with night after night, only supplementing with occasional guests. There were several personnel changes in the 1980’s, which slowed down about twenty years ago. Julio Fernandez became the group’s guitarist in 1984 and has continued in that position. Scott Ambush became the band’s bass player in 1991 making this the beginning of his third decade in the band. Bonny Bonaparte joined the band in 2006 making him the “new guy” at five years. After the great success at the International Jazzfestival Bern 2014, Spyro Gyra returns to Bern for yet another week of great joy – for the audience and band alike!

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