Here’s how things roll in my world. I have a group of about 20 people who will occasionally go see live music with me. I put out a quarterly email to this group and list a bunch of upcoming shows that I’m interested in seeing. I then say “if you have a show you want to see, let me know – I’m up for most anything.” Occasionally, someone will take me up on that, and as a result, I’ve seen some great music that I otherwise would have missed: Buddy Guy and Joywave to name two. Well, now I have a third one to list, and it’s off the beaten BRP track – Syrogyra.
What? A jazz fusion band? I know, that was my reaction at first, but when I dug in, I realized what an institution this band is. Coming out of Buffalo in 1974, the band is not really just a jazz band, but rather combines jazz with R&B, funk, rock and pop. The band has 30 albums and has sold 10 million records.
Jay Beckenstein is the man in the middle, playing the sax with pizzazz. He also sings. Julio Fernandez is the guitarist and that dude can flat out play. On keys is Tom Schuman. Scott Ambush and Lionel Cordew make up a powerful rhythm section. Of course, Beckenstein is the guy that has been there through all the years, and many others have come and gone.
Ardmore Music Hall was the venue. I like that AMH is very close to my house, and that the parking is free and pretty easy to find. It’s also the Main Line, so it’s super safe. I’m not crazy about the layout of AMH, but this show wasn’t sold out, and we had great sight lines. Oh, and the acoustics are very good. I’ve seen a lot of good acts at AMH – Parliament (with George Clinton), Southside Johnny, and Son Volt to name just three – and they seem to have a penchant for bringing in bands that like to groove and funk. That’s a-ok by me!
The Spyrogyra show was chock full of, I guess, classic Spyrogyra tunes. They said they were going to play a lot of their older tracks, and I’ll take them at their word. They did a funky cover of Squeeze’s Tempted, which was an interesting choice, and Beckenstein played the vocals with his sax. Their songs were extended jams, but they were really enjoyable given the fine musicianship on display. A solid 2 hours of music without breaks and much banter is cool, especially when the musicians are on a roll and enjoying themselves. I will say that long drum solos are not my favorite – in fact, they are downright boring – and Spyrogyra allowed one to occur, but otherwise, we had a good time.
In fact, the good time was enhanced by the opening act, Bill Jolly’s Hard Drive All Stars. Bill Jolly is a local legend as an arranger and producer, and has won three Emmy’s. He’s also a pretty talented musician in his own right, and he brought with him a great band – we’re talking 5, yes 5, horns, drums and percussion, and a female vocalist extraordinaire. They did covers of songs that were well done, including about a 15 minute montage of Prince tunes. You know the Kid likes that, right? They ended with When The Saints Come Marching In, complete with a conga-line finale through the crowd. It was a very fun set. We concluded that they were the best wedding band we had ever seen (albeit, that is not setting the bar very high).
This was a nice night out on the Main Line, and the rewards of staying local were that I saw an entertaining evening of live music and was back at home and in bed by 11:20. Not too shabby on a “school night.”
Next up, well, something BIG. And unusual for BRP, too. I apologize for not getting this posted sooner, but dudes and dudettes, I have been on a tear, prowling around at all hours for 5 straight nights, and then having The Man clamp down on me, too. So forgive your humble blogger, and I’ll try my best to get you some of that sweet, funky stuff on line that you like. Deal? Deal! See you soon.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.