Spyro Gyra Will Highlight the Inaugural Carmel Jazz Fest Weekend at the Palladium

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March/April 2023

The Center for the Performing Arts is pleased to announce that long-running jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra will highlight the inaugural Carmel Jazz Fest weekend with an Aug. 12 performance at the Palladium.

Known for original instrumental pieces spiced with R&B, Latin and world music elements, Spyro Gyra emerged during the 1970s fusion wave and never let up, releasing 35 albums, playing more than 10,000 shows and earning 13 Grammy nominations over the past five decades.

Spyro Gyra last performed at the Center in January 2012. On the current tour, saxophonist and founding bandleader Jay Beckenstein is joined by longtime members Julio Fernandez on guitar and Scott Ambush on bass, along with more recent arrivals Lionel Cordew on drums and Chris Fischer on keyboards.

The band’s most recent album, “Vinyl Tap,” was an intriguing departure, a cover collection of songs by The Beatles, Cream, Blind Faith and other classic rockers.

Tickets starting at $25 will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at the Palladium’s Fifth Third Bank Box Office, online at TheCenterPresents.org and by phone at (317) 843-3800. Separate passes are required for Carmel Jazz Fest, which will take place on the Center’s campus and at other venues around the city Aug. 11–12. More information is available at www.carmeljazzfest.org.

I had the pleasure of speaking with The Center for the Performing Arts President/CEO Jeff McDermott as well as Spyro Gyra’s founding bandleader and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein about the upcoming concert presented by The Center for the Performing Arts.

Spyro Gyra Carmel Jazz Fest

Janelle Morrison: I am excited about Spyro Gyra’s return to the Palladium!

Jeff McDermott: We’re excited about this idea of the [jazz] festival and that they plan to use the Center’s venues, which are right here in the heart of Carmel. We’re proud to present Spyro Gyra on the same weekend as the Carmel Jazz Festival.

JM: The Center has a history of advocating Indiana’s — the nation’s — rich jazz history through its Jazz series offerings each season.

JMcD: This fiscal year alone, we’ve had Herb Alpert and Lani Hall in concert and Madeleine Peyroux as part of our jazz genre and Chris Botti — obviously, a great jazz artist. We recently welcomed Jonathan Butler, and year in and year out, we have great jazz offerings that we bring to the community. So, bringing Spyro Gyra here for a Center Presents performance the same weekend as the [Carmel] Jazz Festival seems like a perfect fit for us.

JM: Jay, I am thrilled that you’re returning to the Palladium. Moreover that you’ll be here to highlight the inaugural Carmel Jazz Fest!

Jay Beckenstein: We are honored to be part of the beginning of something, and hopefully, it’s the beginning of something that lasts for a long time because people will love the music.

JM: Speaking of loving music, it’s a blessing that you keep coming back to Indiana and sharing your talents. I want to talk about your most recent album, “Vinyl Tap,” and the process of putting it together, which you and your bandmates dubbed a “warping” process. What does that mean exactly?

JB: We got together as a group for most of the arranging of these songs. This was the first record where we were encouraged to play other people’s music. We’ve always written our own, so after 30-some-odd records, the idea of doing other people’s material was a complete novelty to us. But we went into it not wanting to be “wedding band” and sound like somebody doing covers. It was really important to us that we changed the materials substantially from the original and gave them our own treatments — hence, warping. We stretched and pulled all this music like taffy. It was a ton of fun and very much a group creativity session.

JM: The band itself has experienced evolution over the decades. Share with me who is touring along with you that is from the early days and who’s new to the scene that will be debuting at the Palladium?

JB: I’m the one that goes back to the 70s. Our bass player, Scott Ambush, and our guitar player, Julio Fernandez, came into the band in the ’80s. Our drummer, Lionel Cordew, has been with us for 7–8 years, and we have one member that people will be seeing for the first time: our keyboardist, Chris Fischer.

Our previous keyboardist, Tom Schuman, had been with us for many, many years but has decided to embark on other life experiences. He’s actually moving to Barcelona, Spain, and is changing his life totally. But I had heard this production that Chris was making, a record he was making with Scott. And he was the perfect guy to come in. He’s done a bang-up job bringing his own personality to the band, and it’s kind of fun having something new to react to.

JM: On behalf of all of your fans, we are thrilled that even after all this time, you are sharing your talent and continue to tour. What do you hope people will experience when you come back to the Palladium and help launch the inaugural Carmel Jazz Fest?

JB: This [performing] is what I’m built for. We’ve been on the road for a few weeks, and one of things that we are experiencing is how the audiences are coming back. We’ve had nothing but sellout shows, and there’s so much enthusiasm from the people! We feel that big time from the audiences. And that becomes a reciprocal thing where the audience brings joy to us and we bring joy to them and vice versa. I really expect a great time and a great launch to the festival. I ask the community to support this venture, because it’s the passionate people that love music that make it happen!