Best Of The Heads Up Years

Best Of The Heads Up Years »— 2016

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See Below for Full Musician Credits 

Tracks
1. Cape Town Love (Jay Beckenstein) 5:17 *
2. Funkyard Dog (Julio Fernandez) 5:02 †
3. After The Storm (Julio Fernandez) 6:06 ‡
4. The Tippin’ Point (Jay Beckenstein/Tom Schuman) 5:24 **
5. Wrapped In A Dream (Jay Beckenstein) 6:25 *
6. After Hours (Jay Beckenstein/Chuck Loeb) 5:07
7. Get Busy (Tom Schuman) 5:20 †
8. Florida Straits (Jay Beckenstein) 4:18 *
9. Monsoon (Jay Beckenstein) 7:00 *
10. Bump It Up (Julio Fernandez) 4:53 ‡
11. Simple Pleasures (Jay Beckenstein) 5:48 †
12. Groovin’ For Grover (Tom Schuman) 5:50 **
13. Island Time (Scott Ambush) 6:23 †
14. The Voodooyoodoo (Scott Ambush) 5:22 ††

 

† Produced by Spyro Gyra

* Produced by Jay Beckenstein

** Produced By Jay Beckenstein & Tom Schuman

‡ Produced by Jay Beckenstein & Julio Fernandez

†† Produced by Jay Beckenstein and Scott Ambush

“After Hours” Produced by Jay Beckenstein and Chuck Loeb


Musicians and Recording Credits:

1. Cape Town Love (5:17)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
Dave Samuels – Vibraphone
Marc Quiñones – Percussion
Mino Cinelu – Percussion
Andy Narell – Steel Pans

Recorded and Mixed by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Eric Carlinsky
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

2. Funkyard Dog (5:02)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Bonny B – Drums

Recorded by Spyro Gyra & Eric Carlinsky
Mixed by Martin Walters
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

3. After The Storm (6:06)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Josh Dion – Drums
Cyro Baptista – Percussion

Recorded by Eric Carlinsky and Doug Oberkircher
Mixed by Doug Oberkircher
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

4. The Tippin’ Point (5:24)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Bonny B – Drums

Engineers: Mike Brylinski and Justin Rose
Mixed and Mastered by Martin Walters
——————————————————————————–

5. Wrapped In A Dream (6:25)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Josh Dion – Drums
Recorded by Eric Carlinsky and Doug Oberkircher

Mixed by Phil Magnotti
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

6. After Hours (5:07)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
David Charles – Percussion
The No Sweat Horns:
Barry Danielian – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Scott Kreitzer – Tenor Saxophone
Randy Andos – Trombone
Horn arrangements by Barry Danielian

Recorded by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Phil Magnotti
Mixed by Phil Magnotti
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

7. Get Busy (5:20)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Bonny B – Drums

Recorded by Spyro Gyra & Eric Carlinsky
Mixed by Martin Walters
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

8. Florida Straits (4:18)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
Marc Quiñones – Percussion
The No Sweat Horns:
Barry Danielian – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Scott Kreitzer – Tenor Saxophone
Randy Andos – Trombone
Horn arrangements by Barry Danielian

Recorded by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Phil Magnotti
Mixed by Phil Magnotti
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

9. Monsoon (7:00)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
Cyro Baptista – Percussion
Daniel Sadownick – Percussion

Recorded and Mixed by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Eric Carlinsky
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

10. Bump It Up (4:53)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
David Charles – Percussion

Recorded and Mixed by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Eric Carlinsky
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

11. Simple Pleasures (5:48)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Bonny B – Drums

Recorded by Spyro Gyra & Eric Carlinsky
Mixed by Martin Walters
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

12. Groovin’ For Grover (5:50)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Joel Rosenblatt – Drums
David Charles – Percussion

Recorded by Doug Oberkircher
Additional Recording by Phil Magnotti
Mixed by Phil Magnotti
Mastered by Scott Hull
——————————————————————————–

13. Island Time (6:23)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Bonny B – Drums
Marc Quiñones – Percussion
Andy Narell – Steel Pans

Recorded by Spyro Gyra & Eric Carlinsky
Mixed by Martin Walters
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

14. The Voodooyoodoo (5:22)
Jay Beckenstein – Saxophone
Tom Schuman – Keyboards
Julio Fernandez – Guitar
Scott Ambush – Bass
Josh Dion – Drums
Dave Samuels – Marimba
Nathan Eklund – Trumpet

Recorded by Eric Carlinsky and Doug Oberkircher
Mixed by Martin Walters
Mastered by Greg Calbi
——————————————————————————–

SPYRO GYRA & HEADS UP ~ THE MUSICAL DREAM TEAM

By Dave Love, Founder/ Heads Up International

People often asked me what it took to run a record label. The analogy I often drew was that of a general manager of a professional sports franchise. I was the one who hired the players – some rookies, some in the sweet spot of their careers and some veterans. I would tell people how success would inevitably breed success, and that by having a lineup of great players, I could attract other great players – especially if my team was winning. Heads Up had an amazing run for over two decades. Much of that success came from the opportunity I had to work with Spyro Gyra for nearly ten of those years.

In many ways, Spyro Gyra was the catalyst – that success story that opened the door to further success for the label. Vibraphonist Dave Samuels, a former member of Spyro Gyra who had moved on to the Caribbean Jazz Project with Paquito D’Rivera and steel pan virtuoso Andy Narell, introduced me to the Spyro Gyra lineup in 2000. To this day, I’m grateful to Dave for the introduction and the recommendation for me that he conveyed to the band. The association that I developed with them paved the way for Heads Up to attract a long and deep roster of high-profile contemporary artists. Spyro Gyra was the centerpiece around which

a constellation of stars eventually assembled.

The relationship between band and label was an amazing affair. Every member of the group and its management and everyone on the Heads Up staff worked as a team to service the incredible recordings that came out of the studio. It’s no secret that record labels and artists don’t always see eye to eye. In many cases, the relationship can be contentious. But in our case, Spyro Gyra – as individuals and as a group – were always willing to share ideas with me as well as take some of my ideas into consideration.

It was an ongoing collaborative process, a give-and-take that always made for better recordings, better chart presence, better airplay, better business, better artist-label relations and a better experience overall. I’m grateful for this on a number of levels. Not only are these musicians some of the most creative and inspired people I know, but they have also become close friends along the way. Because of this some of my closest and oldest friends – not just in the music business but outside of it as well.

What’s more, our relationship has never been connected to any specific place. It’s too deep for that. Time goes by – sometimes years – but we never skip a beat when we come together, and we always pick up where we left off with no effort at all. We enjoy a shared history that was created by music but sustained by humanity. Saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, guitarist Julio Fernandez, keyboardist Tom Schuman and bassist Scott Ambush are all amazingly talented musicians, but they are even better human beings.

So when Phil Brennan, Spyro Gyra’s long-time manager, told me the group was getting ready to release a compilation entitled The Best Of The Heads Up Years, I immediately asked him to contribute the liner notes. The tracks in this compilation represent a prolific and successful chapter in the group’s already stellar career as one of the most high-profile instrumental music collectives of the past four decades.

The band released seven albums on Heads Up: In Modern Times (2001), Original Cinema (2003), The Deep End (2004), Wrapped in a Dream (2006), Good To Go Go (2007), A Night Before Christmas (2008) and Down the Wire (2009). Wrapped in a Dream scored their first Grammy nomination in more than twenty years. Good To Go Go garnered their second, followed by A Night Before Christmas and Down the Wire. This recognition by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) speaks plenty about the combined and carefully synchronized efforts of the group and the label, and the success that came out of those joint efforts.

The fourteen tracks collected here provide a satisfying snapshot of what Spyro Gyra was all about during the decade in which they recorded with Heads Up. Each of these songs conjures up fond memories for me personally, and a range of satisfying grooves and emotional forays for any listener.

The upbeat and effervescent “Cape Town Love,” originally from the Original Cinema album, was written after the band’s first performance in Cape Town, and essence of Cape Town: fun, vibrant and groovy. It wasn’t until I was with the band for a concert in Seattle that I learned that the song was named for me. It was touching. It validated my commitment to bring great music to the city’s rich cultural landscape.

“Funkyard Dog,” from Good To Go Go, is everything the title suggests. It’s built on a raw, funky groove generated by drummer Bonny B, whose work is deep in the pocket here. On top of that is an infectious melody played together by Jay and Julio. This one’s all speed, energy and intensity.

The swampy and mysterious “After the Storm,” from Wrapped in a Dream, is a sonic, cinematic journey into the heart of bayou country. It derives its mystical sensibility from the very first measures, where Julio’s atmospheric guitar work and Tom’s primordial keyboard effects merge beautifully and eventually give way to a thumping groove.

Any skeptics who claim that Spyro Gyra doesn’t know traditional jazz need to hear the energetic and engaging “Wrapped in a Dream,” the title track from their 2006 recording. Tom has studied giants like Bill Evans and Joe Zawinul, and it’s evident in every note. He and his bandmates take this song on a complex and improvisational journey that only a group of seasoned jazz players could hope to travel successfully.

“After Hours,” a sometimes laid-back and sometimes soaring composition from In Modern Times, is classic Spyro Gyra from the early 2000s. It’s a song that strikes just the right balance of tight ensemble work, incredible arrangement and an infectious rhythm that’s guaranteed to put you in the groove.

Syncopated and churning, “Good To Go Go” features Scott’s beautiful and tasteful bass solo. The man is a brilliant composer (who happens to make his own instruments), and the melody that emerges here after his solo with Tom and then Jay demonstrates the level of complexity in the melodies these musicians compose and perform.

“Florida Straits,” another track from In Modern Times, showcases Julio’s Cuban roots. His bandmates follow his lead and adapt effortlessly to the Latin rhythm that drives Jay’s composition. “Florida Straits” is just one of many instances throughout Spyro Gyra’s overall body of work – and throughout this compilation – where each band member proves himself to be a citizen of the world who can adapt effortlessly to just about any international rhythm and style. Indeed, just as “Cape Town Love” captured the South African vibe and “Florida Straits” showcases the Cuban groove, “Monsoon” (from The Deep End) explores the exotic sounds and sensibilities of Southeast Asia, while “Island Time” (from Good To Go Go) is a Caribbean celebration.

The midtempo and alluring “Bump It Up” is another example of classic Spyro Gyra. The track sets up an infectious rhythmic foundation that essentially forces the listener to move, and then highlights that foundation with tasteful solo work from Jay, Julio and Tom – all three of whom operate seamlessly as a team, yet make their own individual statements at the same time.

Equal parts poignant and celebratory, “Groovin’ for Grover” is a lovely tribute to saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., an instrumental jazz contemporary who departed this world way too soon – barely a year before this track was recorded – but left behind a brilliant and enduring body of work. That legacy was never lost on Spyro Gyra, as is evident from the solo work by Jay, who captures Grover’s essence throughout the track while still maintaining his own unique voice.

“The Voodooyoodoo” (from Wrapped in a Dream) revisits that same swampy bayou groove found in “After the Storm” a few tracks earlier in the set. The backbeat is consistent and churning, while the solo work riding over the top of it all keeps the piece engaging and adventurous from front to back. The track is the perfect example of how Spyro Gyra is at their best when they’re conjuring the sound and feel of a specific place and its prevailing culture.

The Best Of The Heads Up Years serves as an ideal touchstone for the newcomer to the Spyro Gyra experience as well as the long-time fan. Since the 1970s, the band has built an enormous following via their rare blend of virtuosity, stylistic range and accessibility – not to mention their tireless commitment to touring on virtually every continent on the planet. I was blessed with the opportunity to help them further that legacy for an entire decade on Heads Up. Together, we were the dream team – a partnership wherein artist and label were essentially one, and the victories were mutually beneficial and profoundly satisfying.