FOURTEEN ALBUMS into its chart-topping career, Spyro Gyra has a lot of changes in store for listeners, including a new way to bill itself ("Spyro Gyra featuring Jay Beckenstein"), a new percussionist (Mark Quinones, recently with David Byrne's "Rei Momo" tour), and a new emphasis on tenor sax. And, oh yes, a new recording called "Fast Forward" that broadens the band's stylistic range without sacrificing its customary crossover appeal.
Most of the changes are for the good, particularly Beckenstein's shift from soprano to tenor saxophones. The move not only makes for a refreshing twist on the ballad "Shadow Play" and other cuts, it also helps set the band apart from all the competition it helped inspire. Quinones is also a welcome addition on the no-frills Afro-Cuban tune "Para Ti Latino" and the Caribbean fling "Bright Lights." On the downside, the band occasionally recycles an overly familiar and slick sound -- on the innocuous "Ocean Parkway" or the computer-driven "Future Phobia," for example -- and fails to make much of its first-ever vocal track, the exotic "Tower Of Babel," featuring Israeli folksinger David Broza.
By contrast, guitarist Tuck Andress's album "Reckless Precision" won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's seen Tuck and Patti in concert. After all, on stage Andress usually gets a chance to display the kind of solo guitar verve and finesse that he brings to this luminous collection of standards and original compositions. It's a safe bet you won't find another jazz guitar record that sets a funky take of "Louie Louie" alongside a soulful "Body and Soul," though a far more seamless segue from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to "If I Only Had a Brain" (and back again) is more typical of Andress's alternately tender and jaunty game plan.