In the mid 1970s, Spyro Gyra crafted a unique new sound – inspired by jazz fusion, pop and R&B – and released their debut album on their own label in 1976. Their records were both artistically challenging and commercially successful, and embraced world rhythms, including Caribbean, African and Brazilian sounds. Morning Dance, their first album with a major label, was released in 1979, spawned a Top 40 single, and eventually went platinum. Spyro Gyra went on to build a large and incredibly loyal fan base around the world that continues to this day.
After completing their 2004 recording, The Deep End, which marked a swing back to a more organic, live band sound, Spyro Gyra decided to reinvent itself once again with yet another creative release. The result is Wrapped in a Dream (HUCD 3107), the group’s fourth album on Heads Up International. The album scored a GRAMMY nomination in December 2006 in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album
Wrapped in a Dream reaffirms Spyro Gyra’s status as jazz fusion’s most original group. This coolly textured and cleanly produced collection is filled with subtle melodies and accomplished solos that blend easily into a lush instrumental backdrop. The album was also released on SACD in 5.1 Surround Sound ( HUSA 9107).
“After 24 albums, it’s not always easy to develop new material,” says leader/saxophonist/ producer Jay Beckenstein. “We usually try to veer away from what we did on our previous record. But we also try to embrace anything that explores new ground – in any way we can.”
In addition to Beckenstein, Wrapped In A Dream features keyboardist Tom Schuman, guitarist Julio Fernandez, bassist Scott Ambush, and drummers Josh Dion and Ludwig Afonso. Rounding out the project, special guests include marimba/vibraphone master Dave Samuels, trumpeter Nathan Eklund, trombonist Eric Oliver and percussionist Cyro Baptista.
One of the ways that Spyro Gyra did things a little differently with this album was to go to some younger talents for guest appearances as well as technical assistance rather than the superstar session musicians who have graced earlier releases. Both Josh Dion and Nathan Eklund are musicians in their mid-twenties as is Eric Carlinsky, the main recording engineer on the album.
Spyro members penned most of the twelve compositions. Beckenstein continues to show his mastery of the fusion idiom, composing four tunes for the album, including the jazzy title track. On his ingenious “Impressions of Madrid” Beckenstein plays keyboards and percussion, and even sings and plays flute for the first time on disc. He also handles vocals on the gospel-infused closer, “Woogitybop.” Indeed, the saxophonist seems ready to do it for another thirty years.
Contributing two songs, longtime keyboardist Tom Schuman delivers the heavy groove of “Walkin’ Home” and the edgy “Lil’ Mono” (written with drummer Ludwig Afonso).
“The process of developing material for this album was so natural,” says Schuman. “Once we got into the studio. We sat down, learned the material and played until it felt right.”
Known for his killer grooves and jaw-dropping live solos, bassist Scott Ambush wrote “The Voodooyoodoo.” Guitarist Julio Fernandez continues to emerge as a prominent voice in the group with fluid, funky solos and strong compositions like the driving opener “Spyro Time” and the bluesy “After the Storm.”
“We definitely captured what I was hearing in my mind,” Fernandez says. “Both tunes will be fun to play live.”
With nine Grammy nominations and nearly eleven million albums sold, Spyro Gyra continues to break new ground with this latest outing, the follow-up to The Deep End, which spent most of 2004 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Album chart. Beckenstein attributes Spyro Gyra’s lasting success to a freshness of ideas that allows the band to stay accessible without falling back on their past grooves and earlier successes.
Like their contemporaries Weather Report and Return To Forever, Spyro Gyra places a premium on taking chances and playing in real time – with real time interaction. The group’s longevity springs from creativity, and from being able to reinvent itself time and time again.
Wrapped in a Dream was the last Spyro Gyra album to be recorded at Beckenstein’s own BearTracks Studio. Purchased in 1981, this turn-of-the-century stone farmhouse was converted into a state-of-the-art studio where artists such as The Goo Goo Dolls, George Benson, Mariah Carey, and Foreigner, as well as producers Phil Ramone, Nile Rodgers, and Barry Eastmond, created musical magic. Beckenstein recently sold BearTracks, but for one last time Spyro Gyra recorded at the legendary studio nestled in upstate New York
At a time when most veteran bands are playing it ever safer and trendier, Spyro Gyra’s latest release is proof that the cutting-edge ensemble has not lost touch with its original spirit of exploration.
The dream lives on.