Spyro Gyra

  • Jazz group formed in Buffalo NY in 1974. Founding members were Jay Beckenstein (alto sax), Jeremy Wall (keyboards), Jim Kurzdorfer (bass guitar) and Tom Walsh (drums). Beckenstein has been the frontman since the beginning, and is the only remaining original member. Tom Schuman has handled keyboards since 1978.
  • The band played local Buffalo venues in the early years. When Beckenstein was asked for the name of the band, he told the club owner “Spirogyra,” a term for algae that he learned about in biology class. The club owner mistakenly spelled it “Spyro Gyra”, and the name stuck.
  • Their first album, named Spyro Gyra, was released in 1977. It had modest success, and was one of Billboard’s Top 40 Jazz albums in 1978. Their follow-up album, Morning Dance, gave them international recognition. The single from the album, also called Morning Dance, peaked at #24 on the Hot 100 chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • They have continued to release albums over the ensuing 4 decades. They have released 30 albums. By the end of the 80s, they were Billboard’s most successful jazz artist of the decade.
  • Spyro Gyra has received 12 Grammy nominations over the years.
  • Most of their music does not have vocals – this is a fusion jazz group, with virtuoso skills in the playing of the instruments.
  • I got hooked on their music when I heard Shaker Song from their first album. Beckenstein’s sax skills are solid. Their sound tends to be “cool jazz,” though some of their music can rock.
  • Here’s a concert version of their biggest hit, Morning Dance.

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