Depending on your tastes, the long-standing fusion group Spyro Gyra cemented the "smooth jazz" sound or they diluted the "real" music. For over three decades, the ensemble's principle leaders, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Tom Schuman, have been the gold standard of the smooth jazz genre. This latest version of the ensemble features ex-member marimba/vibraphone virtuoso Dave Samuels, along with Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista and guitarist Julio Fernandez. Tracks like "Lowdown" and "Walkin’ Home" bounce with the kind of slick, radio-friendly grooves their fans have come to love. But on "Spyro Time," "The Voodooyoudoo," "Impressions of Madrid," and the title track, Beckenstein and company lay down some surprisingly credible Muscle Shoals-style funk, flamenco stylings, and even a brushed-stroked, acoustic combo selection. With the leader's succinct and stinging sax lines guiding this percolating pack, their appearance on the bandstand of an old, wizened jazz club may garner polite applause instead of dismissive smirks.
- Eugene Holley, Jr.