While "Rites of Summer" is the title of Spyro Gyra's latest LP, it is also a fitting description of the group's concert this Sunday evening at Snowbird.
The group's unique blend of jazz has graced a summer Utah evening for at least the past eight years, according to Spyro Gyra's local promoter - the past six of them at Snowbird. Die-hard fans and newer converts trek to the mountains each year to hear the group wind their musical magic around the lyrical saxophone of group leader and founder Jay Beckenstein.The Aug. 21 concert starts at 7 p.m. The opening act will be rock calypso artist John Bayley, described as a one-man reggae band. Bayley attracted the biggest crowd of any performer at the University of Utah's Mayfest.
In earlier years, Utah fans were treated to Spyro Gyra's trademark tunes - "Morning Dance" and "Catching the Sun." In subsequent years, concertgoers watched this New York-based band progress through an album a year, as the group's promoter says, "crossing musical barriers and following its emotional heart."
But Beckenstein says the group has never been one to stand still, so those who attend Sunday will likely hear some old favorites, but also will get a taste of Spyro Gyra's latest incarnation, what Beckenstein describes as "giving the music a little more breathing room."
"We didn't go into `Rites of Summer' looking to go after any particular style," Beckenstein said. "This one compared to the last one . . . tends to be a little more R&B. There are also differences in instrumentation that are clear on this album. On this album there is a great deal of saxophone playing, and I'd say we let the drummer have a lot more room, because we did it basically without percussionists."
If past concerts are a measure, Spyro Gyra can be expected to put on a good show with extended versions of recorded tunes and a relaxed stage atmosphere. While not being afraid to show his stuff, Becksenstein also is known for stepping back from the limelight to let the other talented members of the group shine.
Spyro Gyra has been described as consistent, but unpredictable. Over the years, its music has been a mix of jazz, Latin, classical, rhythm and blues and Middle Eastern influences.
Cost of the concert is $12.50 in advance and $14 the day of the show.
- Pam Wade