Spyro Gyra – In Modern Times

InModern TimesIn Modern Times
Spyro Gyra
(Heads Up – 2001)
by Ray Redmond

I’ve seen Spyro Gyra go through a lot of changes over the years, yet there always remains that something that makes them sound like Spyro Gyra (‘something’ is probably eternal band leader Jay Beckenstein). This time around it is apparent that they are searching for some new directions for their trademark sound. The CD starts off with Julio’s Party, Feelin’ Fine and After hours, all of which are crafted in the classic Spyro Gyra mold…. smooth horns, crisp bass lines and tight performances. Feelin ‘ Fine has a distinctive ‘Spyro-on-the-Island’ feel to it. Then you get the River Between, a mellow Clark-esque piece that features bassist Scott Ambush in the lead role.

Groovin for Grover was written with Grover Washington in mind, and it definitely captures the style of the late saxman. Open Door is a flowing, uptempo piece featuring the stylings of guitarist Julio Fernandez (keep an eye out for him in the future). Florida Straits is a bouncy-good Afro-Cuban melody. Sounding more like something from Caribbean Jazz Project, this tune would have been even better had they gotten former band-member Dave Samuels to join them with his Vibes. Julio Fernandez again takes the lead with guitar work that would make Carlos Santana proud.

East River Blue jumps onto the blues train, B3-wailing and sweating all through, with some interesting jazz changes thrown in. Your Touch slows it down a bit, aiming at the B&B and New-Age Crossover markets… it’s an enjoyable but average (translate: good) Spyro Gyra piece. The CD finishes with Lucky Bounce, another of the better tracks.

All in all a good solid effort with some interesting new sounds from one my ‘old favorite’ groups. Kudos to Beckenstein for realizing that (a) the ‘comfortable’ sound is good, but it’s the ‘new’ sounds that will bring in new listeners, and (b) giving more room to the other band members in both the compositional and performance arenas is the only way to grow. I still liked 20/20 better, but In Modern Times is a welcome addition to my Spyro Gyra Collection.