Spyro Gyra – Original Cinema
(Heads Up – 2003)
by Ricky Miller
In recent years Heads Up recods has been adding a lot more latin flavour to their musical offerings, and the new release from Spyro Gyra is no exception. Bandleader Jay Beckenstein says that this CD is an attempt to separate the band from it’s image as a pseudo-smooth jazz group, and the latin influence may stem entirely from that decision. From the funky opening track Bump It Up you know it’s Spyro by the sound, but the stylings are a little different. Extrovertical is a full-scale groove with some unusual sax and percussion lines that are definitely not what we’ve been getting from Spyro Gyra in the past, and again tinged with a south-of-the border flavor.
The mix includes a couple of slow, moodier tracks with Flashback, Film Noir and Dream Sequence which begins slowly with their signature sax sound, then builds to a mid-tempo groove heavily laden with piano accompaniment. Funky Tina starts off just that … funky… then seems to smooth out into another latinesque guitar track. Getaway falls a little more into the mold of ‘standard’ Spyro Gyra music, and succeeds for just that reason as well as the fact that the melody is obviously taken from another popular Stevie Wonder hit (you’ll know it when you hear it).
On the whole this is a good CD… not great, but good. Beckenstein has been able to keep the group on the Jazz radar for many years by being creative while sticking to the formula for the most part. Here he again tries to change up things and proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some Spyra Gyra fans will like this right away, some will take a couple of listens to acclimate to the subtle changes and progressions to be found there. Folks that are not particular Spyro Gyra fans are not going to be dragged into the fold by the overwhelming appeal of this CD because it’s not THAT different from what they’ve been hearing.