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Spyro Gyra: Dream State

Spyro Gyra, 2006; Ludwig Afonso, Tom Schuman, Jay Beckenstein, Scott Ambush and Julio Fernandez

Spyro Gyra, the contemporary jazz ensemble that jokingly named itself after a species of algae, is far from tossed up on the beach. Thirty years have passed since its self-titled debut album, yet the Jay Beckenstein band still finds itself very much in the game. In February, Spyro Gyra released its 25th album and fourth for Heads Up, Wrapped in a Dream. Like Spyro’s The Deep End from 2004, the 12 songs on the new project don’t blend seamlessly into a particular genre. It’s instrumental music, sure, but not your typical polished smooth jazz–and it’s too brassy and groove-centered to be called straightahead. Let’s just call it Spyro Gyra music. “As always, there’s a degree of eclecticism to the album,” says saxophonist Beckenstein, one of two original members still in the band that formed in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1974. “It goes in a number of different styles.”

Adds keyboardist Tom Schuman, the other original member: “No matter what your artistic output has been in the past, there will always be a fresh beginning as long as you recognize the importance of creativity. Spyro Gyra’s music will always be as fresh as the moments in time it took to write and produce it. When people ask me what my favorite Spyro Gyra CD is, I say, ‘The one that is yet to be produced.'”

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