Largely an instrumental album, Spyro Gyra’s “A Foreign Affair” is the latest in an extensive back catalog stretching back over 30 years. In fact, there have been only 6 individual years since 1978 that they *haven’t* released at least one album. For their latest, the band has taken influence from all musical cultures, from Indian to Salsa, with the trademarks of previous releases.
The first half of the album is not bad, but expect to feel like you’re on hold, in a waiting room, or you’re 8 years old in your mother’s car again. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it was too jazzy, and not really enough of the other ingredients that makes the last half of this album so unique. And “Chileno Boys” sounds like something from a soft porn late night special… or so I’m told.
When “Samba for Two” started, I actually had to check to see if I had gone on to the next artist in my iTunes – it’s so different than the first half of the album, and continues to be something along the lines of Buena Vista Social Club. “Canção de Ninar” has an exquisite piece of piano work halfway through. “Falling Walls” is a nice communication between the alto sax (one of my least favourite instruments, thanks to one Kenny G) and the Spanish guitar. It has a “Girl from Ipanema” feel about it, something you feel is best enjoyed with a cigar and a rum cocktail. “Last Call” is exactly that: a smoky, late night anthem that curls up inside you.
I almost feel as though there should be two reviews for this album, as the two halves are so different. Overall, though, “A Foreign Affair” certainly helps with the rainy weather we on the West Coast have been toiling through of late, but this style of fusion jazz has not aged well – rather, it seems stuck, or stoically holding on to the past. That the band plays these instruments with such skill and prowess is commendable, but unfortunately they fail to experiment outside of the formula used so many years before (something that “jazz” is all about).