Grammy nominated Spyro Gyra performs at Fairfield Theatre Co.

The Fairfield Theatre Company welcomes Grammy nominated pioneers of the pop jazz movement, Spyro Gyra to StageOne on Thursday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m., 70 Sanford Street.

It must have been fun in the ’70s, when young emerging artists played whatever came naturally to them without worrying about the parameters dictated by radio formats, as  many know of today. It was during this time in musical history where musicians played instrumental music, it didn’t really matter if it was jazz, pop, or fusion, all that mattered was that it was melodic and adventurous.

Founded in 1974 by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, Spyro Gyra have continued to be one of the most commercially successfully pop-jazz groups of the past 40 years. Spyro Gyra, began during Tuesday night Jazz jams, a forum where Beckenstein and friend Jeremy Wall were joined by a rotating cast of musicians at a local open jam session.

It wasn’t long until the owner of the Buffalo, New York club that hosted the jams wanted the group to perform their own gig. When he asked Beckentein what the name of the band was, Beckenstein said, “Spirogyra,” a word he learned while writing a college paper for a biology class. However, the owner misspelled the word as “Spyro Gyra”, and the name has stuck ever since.

Taking its early musical cues from such bands as Weather Report and Return to Forever — bands whose creative flights were fueled by a willingness to do things that had never been done before, Beckenstein “Believed that (they) were springing from what Weather Report did. I never thought in commercial terms. I just thought they were the next step in the evolution of jazz, and that we would be part of it.”

They’ve certainly made their mark. Spyro Gyra became a full-time venture in 1976 and have been touring ever since. Delving deep into the band’s music, critic’s love to breakdown how easy they are able to blend elements of R&B, pop and Caribbean music with that of their jazzy roots, which have led to a uniquely rare stimulating and danceable melodies to audience’s ears.

Having performed more than 5,000 shows, released more than 30 albums (not counting “Best Of…” compilations) and selling more than 10 million albums while also achieving one platinum and two gold albums, Spyro Grya now comes to Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne in support of coming off a major milestones for any band, a 40th anniversary.

While so many of today’s smooth artists seem to have been created of the format, by the format and for the format specifically, Beckenstein is proud to realize that Spyro Gyra and artists of their generation were the innovators around whom radio rushed to create a formalized genre. “When we first started,” Beckenstein recalls, “a lot of the jazz purists got on our case about calling what we did jazz and now it’s funny to hear us getting respect from the same people. Like, wow, what you guys did was so much more intriguing than some of the stuff they hear today. Purists tend to be protective of their art form, and at first they didn’t understand a band mixing in all these extraneous elements. But, the reason I got into jazz at all was the freedom it gave me from the strict structures of pop. It’s ironic that it’s more the jazz community who is insisting on certain rules or forms in order to be considered jazz. If that now means that you can’t call what we do jazz, then call it something else. All I ask is to be judged not by style, but by content. Art manifests itself in a multitude of styles and contexts.”

Spyro Gyra’s desire was never for strictly commercial success. There was no calculated effort to sell millions of records, sell out concerts throughout the world, and inspire a whole new generation of musicians seeking an eclectic road of their own. When Beckenstein and Wall first started jamming back in Buffalo, they just did it because it was a blast, pure and simple. They made lyrical, jazzy music for a few folks, developed a high energy live gig. One thing led to another and suddenly, instrumental music was never quite the same.

For tickets, at $75 in advance, with a $10 member discount, visit fairfieldtheatre.org or call 203-259-1036.

Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra

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