Spyro Gyra at Coyote's

By W. J. Sandman III

Anticipating the Spyro Gyra concert of November 28, my wife Claudia inquired as to whether I thought she would enjoy the outing. She cut her teeth on Ella Fitzgerald and blossomed into Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, never encountering the West Coast smoothness of Jay Beckenstein and friends. I advised her that her jazz tastes, being like her taste in wine, Spyro Gyra might be a bit sweet for her. Arriving, we decided the venue, Coyote's at O'Malley's Corner, would be interesting and the staff and sound system proved excellent, while the mirrored saddle "disco" ball was simply amusing. Bobby J. and Rhythmism warmed up the crowd with excellent musicianship, but a curious mix of covers ranging from War's "Low Rider" to "Fly Me to the Moon." While the players were quality, the play list was questionable for warming up a jazz crowd.

Spyro Gyra arrived at 9:30, opening with "Bump It Up," a silky display of bassist Scott Ambush's talents and "Cape Town Love," tasting of reggae with a touch playfulness and fun, from their latest CD "Original Cinema." Beckenstein advised the crowd that the tracks on the CD were based on movie scores and "Film Noir" was indeed smoky and black, while being a bit disjointed, ranging in feel from Average White Band to ballad jazz to bebop.

"Dream Sequence" was where my wife was totally won over; it was smooth jazz, with good improvisation and hintsof whiskey and tobacco, completely fitting for the venue and my beloved's taste. "Shaker Song," feeling of a rumba and oozing of "lounge," led into the requisite retro trilogy along with "Catching the Sun" and "Morning Dance" from their 80's successes. The trio reminded me of warm afternoons in San Francisco and my wife of her doctor's office. Go figure.

"Incognito," a funk rhythm with rock and jazz glazed with ELO synth overtones led into "Para Ti Latino" with Julio Fernandez's spicy flamenco guitar, a warm punchy bass line and Beckenstein's sax invoking images of Cuba in November. Rounding out the set, "Bitter End" features a silky stretch of Scott Ambush's bass talents, while letting the rest of the band: Tom Schuman: keyboards and Joe Rosenblatt: drums flex their talents and blow with a delightful round the stage jam.

Spyro Gyra was just what was needed on a cold November night in Louisville to warm us up. My wife, previously put off by the band's arguably over-produced albums, was impressed with the excellent live show whichproved thatSpyro Gyra, one of the more commercially successful jazz groups, has held up like good wine.