Good to Go-Go
The core group of saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, keyboardist Tom Schuman, guitarist Julio Fernandez and bassist Scott Ambush is back for their 26th project, believe it or not. Spyro Gyra hasn’t had much luck with drummers over the past few years, but its problems seem to have been solved with the addition of Bonny B, who is originally from Trinidad and recently has backed Bruce Hornsby. He adds zing to the CD and with “Jam Up,” which he wrote and adds some Jamaican-style toasting and vocalese to, harkens back to the free-spirited, Caribbean-inspired days of “Morning Dance” and “Shaker Song.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that steel-pan master Andy Narell adds his own blend of happy vibe to “Jam Up” and the tropical “Island Time.”
Even without Bonny B, Spyro Gyra would still be one of the more artistically honest contemporary jazz jam bands. Leader Beckenstein has always been underrated as a saxophonist, no doubt because his comfort zone is in a band backed by lifelong friends. There are no dead moments on Good to Go-Go, just a generous serving of chops.