Jay Beckenstein's mother was an opera singer and his father was heavily into jazz.
Those were his musical influences growing up."But dad won the battle for the turntable, so I ended up listening to a lot of jazz," Beckenstein said during a phone interview from Buffalo, New York. "I guess that may be why I decided to play the saxophone."
Beckinstein is the founder of the seminal jazz/fusion group Spyro Gyra. The band - Beckenstein, keyboardist Tom Schuman, guitarist Julio Fernandez, bassist Scott Ambush and drummer Joel Ro-sen-blatt - will play Highland High on Friday, Oct. 9. The music will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at all Smith'sTix outlets or by calling 467-TIXX.
Since Beckenstein was exposed to music at such an early age, he didn't really find a point in time where he decided to play music as a career.
"I did know that I loved it," he said. "One selected memory I have of my conviction to play music was when I was supposed to get braces.
"I was about 11 and played the sax," he explained. "Most people know that the saxophone pulls at your teeth, while the trumpet pushes them in. My orthodontist wanted me to switch to the trumpet. I told him I'd rather look ugly that stop playing the sax."
Spyro Gyra formed officially in 1975 and played throughout Buf-falo.
"That was pretty tough," Beckenstein said. "We played these clubs until around four in the morning. And we still were worried about having enough money for breakfast. Buffalo is a rhythm & blues town - not a jazz town."
So in 1978, the group decided to release an album and disband.
"That was the plan," Beckenstein said. "But it back-fired."
The self-named album hit the Top 100 and got a lot of raves from local critics and radio stations.
"We decided to record a second album," Beckenstein said. "And that one really blew us away."
The album, "Morning Dance," hit No. 27 on the charts and sold more than 1 million copies - making it a platinum release.
"That totally took us by surprise," Beckenstein said with a laugh. "And here we were a couple of years ago trying to stay sober, focused and successful."
Throughout the years, Spyro Gyra has brought its music to jazz and fusion lovers around the world. And through sheer dedication, the road trips still are fun.
"I think the fact that we try to maintain our connection with each other musically is why we're together," Beckenstein said. "And we're also a pretty stubborn bunch.
"Then again, we want to keep the music moving and that's important to us."