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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Crotchet
Midprice
The very best of
SPYRO GYRA
Verve 543 595-2

 

 


  1. Limelight
  2. Breakfast at Igor’s
  3. You Can Count on Me
  4. Para Ti Latino
  5. Ariana
  6. Three Wishes
  7. Pipo’s Song
  8. Heart of the Night
  9. What Exit
  10. Yosemite
  11. The Unknown Soldier
  12. The Tower of Babel
  13. The Unwritten Letter
  14. Westwood Moon
  15. Morning Dance

The personnel vary with the different sessions, but Jay Beckenstein – saxes, Tom Schuman – keyboards, Dave Samuels – Guitar are on most tracks.

Spyro Gyra have been on the scene for 14 years, which is amazing longevity for a contemporary music group. A lot of the personnel have also stayed for long periods giving the band stability. Everyone has heard Morning Dance and it kind of set the Spyro Gyra style. This album features a live recording made in 1977 of that tune.

The problem for me with all latin-rock is that it limits the soloist, rock beats rarely swing anyway and the incessant banging and crashing of the latin instruments I find annoying. That having been said however, there is no doubt in my mind that Spyro Gyra are much the best of the so called ‘smooth jazz’ groups, the majority of which are not really jazz groups at all because the improvised content of their work is so small. The band write good melodies which they play in an immediately recognisable style and there is some solo space to allow improvisation and some excellent soloists to take advantage of it. What characterises their performances is high-energy latin rhythms, good arrangements, original tunes, good clean ensemble playing and good soloists. Their influences are many, jazz, swing, rock. latin and most other forms of popular music, the problem for me is do they have to use all of them in every tune? As an example I find Birk’s Law the most attractive track, because it uses a sextet format and is nearer to a classic jazz line up.

If you are an avid fan of the group, you will probably already have the albums this selection is taken from. If that is not your situation and you enjoy the group, but not to the extent of wanting their complete work, this is the album for you. I shall certainly play it again despite my earlier reservations.
 
 
Don Mather

 



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