In the early '70s, the intensity of jazz and the energy of rock merged to form "fusion" music. The combination was a natural one - brooding, emotional outbursts propelled by pulsating funky rhythms produced a sound that was complex yet youthfully invigorating.
Somewhere along the line, fusion fizzled.
The deflating of fusion is nowhere more apparent than in the music of Spyro Gyra. The six-piece group, which appeared Saturday and last night at the Cellar Door, featured worn-out jazz riffs 'updated" by stale rock beats. All were placed in a congenial harmonic setting that was inoffensive to the point of being offensive.
Most of the musicians (particularly Jay Beckenstein on sax) are competent instrumentalists, but their compositions and playing lack creative spark and drive. Instead of reenergizing jazz and rock, they have diluted the stylistic qualities of each so that their music has all the spontaneity of TV game show theme song.
Their performance was tailored to the music, the musicians leaping and dancing about the stage to the delight of the sell-out crowd. Gerardo Velez's John Travolta-like approach to percussion technique - with twirling tamborines and whirling cymbals - was amusing. If Spyro Gyra fails on the concert circuit, they could always try the Gong Show.