Spyro Gyra has been playing quality, original contemporary jazz for its fans for over 25 years. Saxophonist and bandleader Jay Beckenstein has made the band the center of his life and is just as passionate today as when the band first started. I talked by phone to the always-articulate Beckenstein.
NUVO: Have you made any changes musically to reach a younger generation of listeners?
Beckenstein: When you play with conviction, and you play with force and spirit, young people get it.
NUVO: Would you say that jazz has become a multi-cultural music genre?
Beckenstein: Right from the very beginning, jazz was a cultural amalgam. It was European music and African music meeting each other in this magnificent marriage. Latin music and Brazilian music became very key to jazz. The idea of improvising and soloing, that's the very heart of Jazz.
NUVO: Spyro Gyra has remained true to its style and not succumbed to a interest in technology which seems to be pervasive in the recording industry.
Beckenstein: I think, if you have a bunch of guys who have stayed together for 35 years, the best thing about them is the interplay and the interaction with their ability to riff off of each other. Technology is the antithesis of what we do. Spyro Gyra doesn't have a style; we have a sound.
NUVO: What is your opinion of the status of jazz today?
Beckenstein: I think it's a lot harder to define jazz today. It's a lot harder to define any specific direction for jazz. Jazz is none the less ubiquitous. It's everywhere around the world. Jazz has infused itself into hundreds of musical styles. Musicians all around the world recognize jazz as a highly-technical art form that is greatly respected everywhere.