Jazz innovators Spyro Gyra bring their special blend of jazz, R&B, funk and pop to Edmonds Center for the Arts next Friday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.ec4arts.org or by phone at 425-275-9595. Ticket prices are $15-$40.
Spyro Gyra emerged around Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall, who met and formed a band during their high school years. Although they headed in different directions during college — Beckenstein to the State University of New York in Buffalo and Wall to Cal Arts — they spent summers together playing outdoor concerts, and Wall moved to Buffalo soon after graduating. The two started playing instrumental music together, mostly covers of R&B songs. A 16-year-old keyboardist, Tom Schuman, joined in and the group had two keyboardists until Jeremy Wall left the group in 1978.
Over a year, their work evolved into Spyro Gyra – a name that came from Beckenstein’s college biology paper and became the band’s name when a club owner pressed them for a name to put on the marquee. The 1979 release of Morning Dance proved to be the group’s breakthrough on the national and international scene. They appeared in most major cities in the United States and many jazz festivals in Europe throughout 1979, and the album became a platinum seller due to the Top 40 title cut, a #1 adult contemporary single.
The heavy touring that began around this same time has yet to stop, and a few new faces have entered the group along the way, including guitarist/vocalist Julio Fernandez and bassist Scott Ambush. Best known for “Morning Dance” and “Shaker Song”, Spyro Gyra has released more than 30 albums and received 11 Grammy nominations over the span of their career. In 2007, they were awarded the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Their latest album, 2009’s “Down the Wire”’ garnered them their latest Grammy nomination, for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Edmonds Center for the Arts is a non-profit performing arts facility that is housed in the historic original Edmonds High School building. ECA was remodeled and opened in October 2006 to be a cultural resource for the Puget Sound region through performing arts presentations, community partnerships and education outreach programs.