widely considered one of the most uninspired jazz bands of all time,
Spyro Gyra was also one of the most commercially successful, particularly
among the non-jazz audience. They were therefore influential in evangelizing
the white pop audience.
Formed in 1974 by alto saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and electric pianist Jeremy Wall, the band's two main composers, and centering around the setting of a
small chamber ensemble (notably keyboardist Tom Schuman), Spyro Gyra
succeeded where others had failed because they shamelessly focused on
the lightweight pop, soul and jazz fusion that the jazz establishment
considered debasing. Instead, their hits, such as
Shaker Song, from Spyro Gyra (1976),
Morning Dance and Heliopolis, from Morning Dance (1979),
Carnaval, from Carnaval (1980),
Autumn Of Our Love and Catching The Sun, from Catching The Sun (1980),
Freetime and Schuman's Pacific Sunrise, from Freetime (1981),
Incognito, Harbor Nights and Old San Juan, from Incognito (1982)
Shakedown from Alternating Currents (1985),
Schuman's Conversations, Serpent In Paradise and Islands In The Sky, from City Kids (1983), that introduced vibraphonist/marimba player Dave Samuels,
emphasized dance rhythms, catchy melodies, relaxed counterpoint and
slick arrangements, a format that was the epitome of yuppy intellectual torpor.
By the time of the electronic Breakout (1986), Spyro Gyra's sound had
become pure routine, that any member of the band (not only Beckenstein and Wall) could compose.
Spyro Gyra's vibraphonist Dave Samuels, who also worked with Gerry Mulligan, Anthony Davis and Carla Bley, died on april 22 for a long illness, at 70.