This jazzy instrumental music group began in 1976 in Buffalo, NY. The first members were the bandleader and saxophone great Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall. After a few years another keyboardist Tom Schuman joined the band. Over the years many musicians have came and left the group, most notably vibes and marimba master Dave Samuels who played with the group from 1983 to 1993. The latest incarnation of the group includes Beckenstein and Schuman, drummer Joel Rosenblatt, Cuban guitarist Julio Fernandez, and bass player Scott Ambush.
The bands name came about when Beckenstein was asked his band's name by a club owner and he jokingly replied, "spirogyra" (the scientific name for an algae or "pond scum"). The club's owner then began advertising the group as Spyro Gyra and the name has been with them ever since.
The musical style of Spyro Gyra has been labeled as jazz, pop, fusion, new age, smooth jazz, and adult contemporary. You can hear elements of R&B, Latin, Brazilian, and Caribbean music in their work. I like to think of the sound as contemporary jazz.
The group's first major commercial success came in 1979 with the release of the album and single Morning Dance. The album eventually went on to sell over a million copies. Since then they have output another 23 albums. They have always maintained a very busy touring schedule; making appearances at all the best blues and jazz festivals around the world.
Jazz purists have criticized the band since its inception for not being "real" jazz. Beckenstein once said, "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."