Spyro Gyra is a quintessential American jazz band that often gets lumped into the pop-jazz category thanks to two monster radio hits from more than 30 years ago: “Shaker Song” and “Morning Dance.” But while those songs helped band members buy houses and gain a worldwide audience, they don’t speak to saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and company’s insistence of jazz integrity over simple instrumental pop.
Spyro Gyra’s latest will satisfy the jazz hordes as well as those who yearn for the early, tropical-inspired fun. A Foreign Affair travels the globe, and does it in style. The steel pans make a comeback on “Sweet Ole Thang,” returning drummer Bonny B to his Trinidadian roots. “Caribe” is another warm-and-sunny blast from the past, and the band’s Brazilian influences are lovingly fashioned in “Samba for Two” and “Canção de Ninar.”
Guitarist Julio Fernandez’s “Falling Walls” is funky world music employing Middle Eastern scales, and he sings “Chileno Boys,” a tune written by Israeli musician David Broza. Other highlights: “Last Call” featuring bluesman Keb’ Mo’, and bassist Scott Ambush’s South African sojourn on “Dancing on Table Mountain.” Simply put, this is the CD that many casual Spyro Gyra fans have been waiting for.