Deep End by Spyro Gyra – reviewed by Chris Mann
history of Spyro Gyra is a long and distinguished one.
In fact the band’s story spans 30 years, and its touring and
recording successes have made it one of contemporary jazz’s
cornerstones – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that.
The band has undergone lineup changes and with “The Deep
End”, it has released by my reckoning 28 albums, including 3
anthologies (including a rare 2-disc set) and 2 outstanding live sets.
would recommend you to visit their excellent
website to get the full story and the exhaustive discography. I just went through my own collection and until “The Deep
End” dropped through my door, I had 17 of their CD’s. This review was a pleasure – as you can imagine.
Jeremy Wall composition Summer Fling is a nice, gently funky
opener showcasing Scott Ambush’s rock solid, always melodic bass,
Dave Samuels on marimba and Jay Beckenstein’s sublime alto sax.
The guitar on here is a joy too.
There’s also good guitar on Eastlake Shuffle, which
opens in a very groovy Larry Carlton style.
This song, whilst being slick, is like putting on a comfortable
pair of shoes – at least it is for Spyro Gyra fans like me!
contains some of the most adventurous music I’ve heard the band play
since “Stories Without Words”.
From its exotic opening with overtones of Indian music to its
rocky close with some burning guitar from Julio Fernandez, it’s
drama. It has flavours of
‘70’s jazz-rock and I love it.
The mood lightens for the pretty As You Wish, which
opens with Fernandez’ more delicate guitar work.
Everybody is to be admired for the light touch they bring to
this song. There is the
right amount of everything. The
keyboard solo is juicy and really old-skool!!!
crisp snare of new drummer Ludwig Afonso drives the funky Joburg
Jam. I love the way
this struts along and the confident sound of Beckenstein’s sax.
This must be awesome live – I’d enjoy dancing in the aisles
to this one. Dave
Samuels’ vibes solo is like breath to me – essential.
This song gets an injection of rock guitar halfway through and
steps up a gear. The
Crossing has yet more new age elements like Monsoon and
starts off very much like John Patitucci’s “Two Worlds” before
opening out into a joyous Special EFX-type number.
It’s always a Spyro Gyra tune though, with the trademark
touches you’d expect. This
twists and turns and retains a lovely, almost African, feel.
The flamenco twist halfway through the song is gorgeous and the
song builds and builds from there until its languid and atmospheric
want to wiggle when you hear the snazzy doubled bass and vibes lines
in the Wiggle Room. Funky,
dark and just a little “dirty”, this is for the adventurous
dancers and bass fans. Mr
Ambush – pullin’ off those Stanley Clarke-style harmonics – you
rock!!! Another killer-diller
number for a live show. This is my favourite song.
could call this smooth jazz – and you’d be wrong.
The opening to Wind Warriors is exotic with lots of
percussion textures over some great keyboards.
The first thought I had when I heard this was the range of
moods that this album takes you through.
Once upon a time, bands made records that you could listen to
on headphones and get lost in…
Let me tell you – it still happens.
The soaring guitar reminds me of my favourite moments on old
L.A. Express and Headhunters records.
Tom Schuman comes over all ‘Jan Hammer’ at the end.
to remind you that these guys have a mellow side, Julie Fernandez
plays a pretty melody on In Your Arms.
This dreamy song has “film music” written all over it for
me. When is a studio going to give me the job of choosing music
this good for movie audiences?? Cheeky,
funky and guaranteed to make you smile – that’s Chippewa Street.
The brass almost sounds like car horns and the band are wearing
their funk credentials with pride here.
It’s almost too good.
Mr Schuman plays up a storm on the organ – a real B3 – I
don’t think so but who cares? Could
be the best ever set closer, perfect for those “teaser” false
use of percussion on this record (there are three percussionists) is
imaginative throughout and on the intro to Beyond the Rain,
it’s outstanding. Ambush
and Beckenstein do a ‘Braxton Brothers’ with a high-register
melody on the bass that’s doubled by the sax.
I love this. This
is really artistic stuff – when radio plays more music like this,
I’ll feel we’re headed in the right direction.
28th album from the mighty Spyro Gyra.
After all this time, it’s hard to believe that these guys
have taken the best elements of contemporary jazz and laid them out
before us like a young band that means it.
There is never a dull moment.
Don’t write this off as “smooth jazz” or you’ll be
missing out on something really special.
Heads Up International –
HU3085 – Executive Producer Jay Beckenstein