For 30 years, Spyro Gyra -- founded in Buffalo by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall -- has been pushing jazz into bed with pop, R&B and funk. For almost as long, the self-appointed guardians of jazz integrity have been lambasting the group for stripping the music of its improvisational roots, concentrating on simple melodies and easy-going counterpoint -- and, in the process, presiding over the birth of "lite jazz," a watered-down, easy-listening mainstream extension of the idiom.
One doubts that Beckenstein and his rotating cast of musical characters have been too particularly bothered by any of this critical bashing. The group has made more than 25 albums, still tours heavily and has by now racked up album sales in excess of 10 million. That, in the word of instrumental music, is no mean feat.
Spyro Gyra, with new member Bonny Bonaparte occupying the drum throne, arrives at the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall on the Buffalo State campus, 1300 Elmwood Ave., for a homecoming gig commencing at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $30 and can be found at the Rockwell Hall box office or through www.buffalostate.edu/pac. The group will also have a meet and greet at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Barnes & Noble, 4401 Transit Road, Clarence.
-- Jeff Miers