Just talking about tonight's Spyro Gyra concert at Cain Park's Evans Amphitheater gets Jay Beckenstein, the group's founder and saxophonist, a little misty-eyed. "Cleveland was our very first road trip," he recalls. Since 1978, the jazz-fusion combo from Buffalo has played our city more than three dozen times. "Playing and meeting our audiences that doesn't thin out at all," he says. "It's a really great thing."
Spyro Gyra (the name comes from tweaking a Latin term for pond scum) first floated to fame in 1979, when the calypso-flavored "Morning Dance" hit the pop Top 40. The band has been a fixture on the contemporary-jazz charts ever since. Spyro Gyra's new album, Wrapped in a Dream, features Latin beats, bluesy grooves, and horn-drenched pop. There's even a blend of South African and gospel rhythms on the closing "Woogitybop." "We extract DNA from all of our musical influences," says Beckenstein.
These days, the sax player gets most of his new-music tips from his three teenage daughters. They've turned him on to everyone from the Beastie Boys to Radiohead. "Eminem's not bad either," he says. "I like strong, angular music. We take any opportunity we can to embrace change." An update of some of the band's older material is now in the works, complete with new, modern arrangements.
Expect to hear some of those fresh sounds at tonight's show. But although Spyro Gyra plans to perform some favorites, Beckenstein says that the group's latest tour isn't about strolling down memory lane. "We're a contemporaryband," he says. "We are not out there to wax nostalgic. Our best music is now."
Sun., July 30, 8 p.m.