Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Spyro Gyra Connection

It was 1988, time was confusing, relationship ending, moved back in with the folks - spent a lot of time listening to my music - healing and thinking. If you can recall, pre-internet, you'd browse your favorite record store and stumble across new discoveries, which is how I found these three releases that bring back memories of sorrow, confusion, pain - and then the excitement and lust of things new and strange! I always loved the vibes of Dave Samuels and the color he brought to Spyro Gyra, so I was filled with great anticipation when I first came across Living Colors; not his first release as a leader, but his first disc, while a full fledged member of SG. This disc, produced by Jay Beckenstein is probably the most diverse of the releases that Samuels put out while with the boys from Buffalo, before he went out and started Caribbean Jazz Project. Future CJP partner, Andy Narell contributes in a big way on 'New Math', which I had the pleasure of seeing SG perform live.

At one time, during the genesis of SG, Ted Reinhardt held down the drum chair and Rick Strauss was the guitarist and also contributed compositionally (End of Romanticism on Morning Dance). I had no idea what Gamalon was about, except that they were on the same label as Spyro Gyra (Amherst Records) and that the cover art was kick-ass - so I bought the CD, which turned out to be kick-ass as well! 'Billy's Saloon', 'Ooh...Babe', and 'Cabin #14' - I still put the headphones on and crank the shit out of this music, 20 years later! Over the years the band has changed it's line up, the guitar duties have been passed on to others, but they're still playing live and are as intense as ever. Fusion doesn't get any better than this.....period.

Rick Strauss was an early member of Spyro Gyra and contributed one composition to their break out record, Morning Dance. In 1988 he release Jump Start, with a little help from a cadre of Buffalo's finest jazz musicians. The early SG connection was immediately evident in this disc of  Strauss' original compositions and flowing guitar sound. 'Honest Two Socks', 'Shanti', 'Toronto' - all three of these could have easily appeared on any of SG's first four releases. It's a tough one to find, but if you can, search this disc down. Listen to Dave Samuel's 'New Math', 'Cabin #14' from Gamalon and 'Toronto' by Rick Strauss.


DaddyMac said...

I saw Gamalon live here in the B-lo way back-in-the-day when they opened for Stanley Clarke. They were indeed a kick ass band, playing fusion the way I remember when RTF, Billy Cobham, et al did when they were young lions--I too still jam this joint from time to time…

jzyjohn said...

Great stuff, heard they're still playing at the Central Park Grill with a new line-up. Thanks for the comment!