Two for Tuesday: Spiro Gyra

The band Spiro Gyra was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1974. It was a group of jazz and rock musicians that played in the local bar scene. When asked by a bartender what the band’s name was, founding member and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein told him “spirogyra,” after a form of algae. The bartender wrote the name as Spiro Gyra, and the rest is history. Currently, the band consists of Beckenstein, keyboardist Tom Schuman, bassist Scott Ambush, guitarist Julio Fernandez, and drummer Lionel Cordew. Their most recent album is 2013’s The Rhinebeck Sessions, a live album; their most recent studio album is 2011’s A Foreign Affair, according to their website.

“Morning Dance” was the title track from their 1979 album. It reached #24 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, while the album reached #27 on the Top 200 albums chart.

“Cafe Amore” was from the band’s fourth release, 1980’s Carnaval. It reached #77 on the Hot 100 and #14 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Spiro Gyra, your Two for Tuesday, October 9, 2018.

Two for Tuesday: George Benson (Smooth Jazz)

George Benson is an early smooth jazz artist. He got his start playing soul jazz with Jack McDuff and led his own band in the early ’70’s. His 1976 debut album on Warner Brothers Records, Breezin’, could be considered one of the first albums of the genre. It topped the Pop, Jazz and R&B charts, went triple platinum (3 million copies sold) and won the 1977 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and was nominated for Album of the Year (which was won by Stevie Wonder for Songs In The Key Of Life, which, coincidentally, George played on).

Two singles came from the album. The first is the title track, which has become a smooth jazz standard.

The second is his cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade.” It was a Top 10 hit on the Pop and R&B charts in 1976 and won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1977.

George Benson, your Two for Tuesday, October 2, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Smooth Jazz

I have not exactly been feeling well the last few days and it was like pushing a rope up a hill to try and get this out. Besides, I promised I would reveal my theme for the next few months for Two for Tuesday today, and until about twenty minutes ago I wasn’t sure what that was going to be. Then I got to thinking about my last freebie day, where I picked from my rather extensive jazz collection, and the good reception that smooth jazz got, and I had my theme.

What is smooth jazz? Well, it’s a combination of fusion (jazz and rock), popular music, and rhythm & blues, with elements of Latin, funk, electronic, New Age, chill, lounge, and other forms. It lacks much of the complexity of true jazz or fusion, which is both its main criticism and its main strength. Some dismiss it as pop or easy-listening music with elements of jazz rather than true jazz or fusion, even though many of its practitioners have considerable jazz chops. You could say that it’s the age-old struggle between commercial success and musical integrity.

Anyway, here’s some smooth jazz to get you started.

  1. Jeff Golub, “On The Wes Side” In addition to having a prolific solo career, guitarist Jeff Golub was the leader of the band Avenue Blue, and spent a few years backing Rod Stewart. Many smooth jazz guitarists see Wes Montgomery as an influence, as it was Wes who was one of the first jazz artists to go “pop,” as it were.
  2. Candy Dulfer, “Smooth” Saxophonist Candy Dulfer is the daughter of Dutch jazz saxophonist Hans Dulfer. Her first single, “Lily Was Here” featuring Dave Stewart on guitar, was a quick hit in 1989.
  3. Brian Culbertson, “Sensuality” Multi-instrumentalist Culbertson hails from Decatur, Illinois and attended DePaul University, where he recorded his first CD, which got him his first recording contract.
  4. Paul Hardcastle, “Soft Rain” British composer and multi-instrumentalist Hardcastle has recorded a number of albums for various series, including the “Chill Lounge” series, from which this was taken.
  5. Ronny Jordan, “After Hours” British guitarist Ronny Jordan made a name for himself in both smooth jazz and acid jazz, which combines jazz, funk, soul, and disco.
  6. Joe Sample, “Night Flight” Keyboardist Joe Sample is considered a pioneer in smooth jazz, and was an original member of the Jazz Crusaders, later just The Crusaders (for whom Larry Carlton played).
  7. Bob James, “Night Crawler” Keyboardist Bob James is also a smooth jazz pioneer and has playe with the band Fourplay for the last 25 years.
  8. Grover Washington, Jr., “Winelight” Yet another smooth jaz pioneer, you’re probably familiar with his recordding of “Just The Two Of Us” with singer Bill Withers.
  9. George Benson, “Breezin'” Guitarist/vocalist George Benson’s 1976 album Breezin’ is one of the earliest examples of a smooth jazz album. It went triple platinum and included the single “This Masquerade,” which reached #10 on the Hot 100, #3 on the R&B chart, and #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  10. Spiro Gyra, “Morning Dance” “Spirogyra” is a form of green algae that founder Jay Beckenstein learned about in college. Formed in Buffalo, New York (where our very own Michele once worked) in 1974, they’ve released over 30 albums and sold over 10 million units, and are considered a pioneer of the genre.

Anyway, join me tomorrow and every Tuesday for the foreseeable future as we explore the world of smooth jazz! That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for Labor Day, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, Alana, Michelle and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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