SPYRO GYRA and JOHN BAYLEY in concert Sunday at Snowbird. One show only.Spyro Gyra had been playing for 90 minutes Sunday night at Snowbird, and three of the six band members had just completed impressive solos, when group founder and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein returned with his saxophone to center stage.
Beckenstein vibrantly brought home what Spyro Gyra is all about - and has been through 12 albums since 1977 - a blend of bold and brassy jazz fusion that can't be duplicated. While the other musicians are impressive in their own right, it's Beckenstein that provides the core and the sound that makes Spyro Gyra.
Spyro Gyra used the concert to showcase it's new album, "Rites of Summer."
The first two selections from the album played Sunday evening were all right, but the mood of the concert turned an important corner when Beckenstein and keyboardist Tom Schuman teamed up for the slow and haunting "Innocent Soul" from the new album.
Then the entire band blasted back with a song from the group's earliest album and a show-stopper from "Rites of Summer" called "Shanghai Gumbo."
Written by guitarist Julio Fernandez, "Shanghai" featured Beckenstein on sax at his finest. The crowd went wild, and the show never came back down off the roof until it was over.
The crowd was particularly pleased with showcase performances by Dave Samuels on vibes, Oscar Cartaya on bass and Richie Morales on drums. Julio Fernandez stepped in for a few memorable moments of his own, as did Schuman, on keyboard.
But, it's when they put it all together with Beckenstein in the middle that they found the real meat of the concert. They're first encore - an early favorite called "Cockatoo" - was one such moment.
Beckenstein has resisted the temptation to add vocals or other pop music devices to make the music more mainstream, but with Beckenstein's sax, there is no need for vocals. Beckenstein speaks with his sax.
The opening act was worth the price of admission alone. One-man reggae band John Bayley got the crowd to "Don't Worry - Be Happy" and borrowed some songs from reggae master Bob Marley to set the mood.
A word about the Snowbird plaza as a place for a concert: Considering that it was under a canopy at 7,000 feet, the sound was good. But there were actually two events going on - a very good concert under the canopy and a gab fest around it. We were sitting originally just outside the edge of the canopy where there was so much commotion that it was hard to believe that there was a concert going on.
But, after hearing some guy discuss the itinerary for his trip to the Bahamas and ending up in the fringes of some snapshots people were taking of each other, we decided to weasel our way up to the front and see if we could find a couple of vacant seats. We did, and we found a real concert worth the effort.