Nearly 40 years ago in Buffalo, N.Y., Jay Beckenstein started what would become one of the most commercially successful pop-jazz groups in music history. Now, on the tails of the release of their 30th studio album, “The Rhinebeck Sessions,” Spyro Gyra will perform one of their dynamic live shows on Saturday, December 7 at the historic Park Theatre in Cranston. The show will also feature special guest, Grammy-winning guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan.
Beckenstein began playing the saxophone at age seven as he grew up listening to the music of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. After college, he stayed in Buffalo and began playing gigs with an old high school friend, Jeremy Wall. The two soon formed the band, “Tuesday Night Jazz Jams,” with guest musicians and instantly became a staple across Buffalo’s jazz and blues scene. One of those musicians, keyboardist Tom Schuman, joined the band when they became Spyro Gyra and remains a member to this day. In 1979, Spyro Gyra released “Morning Dance,” which became their most commercially successful album. Two years later, their album, “Freetime,” reached the top spot on the Billboard Jazz Album Chart.
As Spyro Gyra reaches countless milestones in its storied career—they have performed over five thousand shows while selling more than ten million albums—they show little sign of slowing down; gaining Grammy nominations for each of their last four albums. With the release of the band’s latest studio album and a new tour, Beckenstein reflects on how the band’s approach to their latest work took them in a new direction—improvising over three days to write and record an entire album.
“Our ability to improvise on the fly has become so strong because we have played together so much; it was time to go into the studio with very little planned and see what might come out of it,” says Beckenstein. “I’ve always felt that music, and particularly instrumental music, has this non-literal quality that lets people travel to a place where there are no words.”
Born in Chicago, Ill., Stanley Jordan began his music career at age six when he started studying piano. By age eleven, his focus shifted to the guitar and soon after, won his first award at the Reno, Nevada, Jazz Festival. While at Princeton, where he studied composition and theory with esteemed composer Milton Babbitt, Jordan performed with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and Richie Cole. During his career, Jordan has performed in over 60 countries; wowing audiences with his advanced touch technique of two-hand tapping at jazz festivals such as Kool Jazz Festival, Concord Jazz Festival, the Monterey International Jazz Festival and more.
Spyro Gyra with special guest Stanley Jordan will perform at the historic Park Theatre at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. Tickets are $35 and $45 and available by calling the Box Office at 467-7275 or online at www.ParkTheatreRI.com. The Park Theatre is located at 848 Park Avenue, Cranston. Free parking is available for all shows.