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Back On Tour: Spyro Gyra With Julio Fernandez On Guitar

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JGT contributor Brad Jeter weighs in on the recent Spyro Gyra show at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse – September 9, 2022.

For those of you that hear the name Spyro Gyra and immediately peg them as Smooth Jazz, you really are doing yourself a disservice. The term smooth jazz didn’t even enter the musical lexicon until much later than when the band formed in 1974. I think a much better way of describing them is accessible jazz.

Every one of the members is an exceptionally talented and versatile player and it is something that is immediately apparent from the opening notes of the show.

The standout for me (hey, I’m a guitarist) is Julio Fernandez, the guitarist who has been with them since the mid-1980s. He has that rare ability to effortlessly project the 3-T’s–Taste, Texture, and Tone. If I had to describe him to someone unfamiliar with his playing, I would say he is cut from the same cloth as Larry Carlton.

Julio Fernandez

A consummate team player who naturally locks in and compliments the rhythm section without bringing any attention to himself. Adding the just-so-right fills when called for, he is a joy to listen to when Jay Bekenstein (founding member and sax) or Tom Schuman (keyboards) stretch out on solos. 

When it comes time for Julio to take the spotlight, he keeps it interesting, melodic, and complimentary to the song, and, importantly, with what the rest of the band is doing.  There is wonderful interplay throughout the show between Julio and the bassist, Scott Ambush. Often moving in close to one another they have that special musical bond that puts and keeps smiles on their faces. Holding it all down with both power and finesse is drummer, Lionel Cordew.

I had last seen Spyro Gyra around 1980 and, although I do remember that concert somewhat (it was at the Berklee Performance Center) the band has evolved and matured into a thoroughly enjoyable and polished ensemble that I think any serious music lover would absolutely enjoy.


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