Spyro Gyra

Road Scholars

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As boring and formula-driven as Spyro Gyra has often been in the studio, the band's live shows of the 1980s and 1990s could be just the opposite -- exciting, loose and spontaneous. This stems from the fact that on stage, Spyro wasn't catering to commercial radio's rigid formats, and was much more inclined to take risks, improvise and gamble with inspiration. Undeniably Spyro's best release of the 1990s, Road Scholars documents its 1997 tour and finds saxman/leader Jay Beckenstein, keyboardist Tom Schuman, guitarist Julio Fernandez and others in generally good form. Spyro sounds inspired rather than calculated on familar material like "Morning Dance" and "Shaker Song," and meaty solos are the rule. Road Scholars' only studio offering is "Best Friends," a routine, pedestrian number with a Najee-meets-George Howard flavor. But on the whole, the release of this CD proved to be a pleasant surprise.

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