Band Bios

I was born May 14, 1951 in Brooklyn, NY and grew up surrounded by music.

My mother was an opera singer and my father's love of jazz introduced me to Charlie Parker and Lester Young before I could speak. I started piano at the age of five when my family moved to Farmingdale, LI. I was given my first saxophone through the music program in elementary school at age seven.

Photo of Jay

From there I took saxophone lessons, and played in school bands up to my senior year of high school. At that point I met Jeremy Wall and we started my first band. My senior year of high school was spent in Nurnberg, Germany where my father was working and I went to school on a U.S. Army Base. I played in R&B bands there that performed both for the Army and in German clubs. By then, I had been introduced to a lot of R&B and rock and started to mix those concepts together with my jazz base.

I returned to the States and enrolled at State University of New York at Buffalo. I studied a good deal of classical and avant garde music in the music program there and played in some interesting avant garde ensembles. I studied saxophone in school with Edward Yadzinski, but I also studied outside with John Sadola who worked on my jazz technique.

By my junior year in college, I had started working in the clubs in Buffalo and by the time I graduated I had steady work in the clubs. The next few years was spent playing in some great blues and R&B bands. Buffalo had a booming music scene at the time, but after awhile I wanted to do something other than be a sideman. I then started doing some off night instrumental sessions in small clubs with Jeremy Wall. This work slowly (over a year) evolved into the band Spyro Gyra. In the band's second year, Tom Schuman joined the band and started to share the keyboards with Jeremy. Tom has been the sole keyboardist since 1978.

Around 1976, I went into business with Rich Calandra, a local drummer who had aspirations to be a record producer. The two of us produced a number of local acts and, when there was studio time left over, we would record Spyro Gyra. The band's first album slowly came together in this way.

Rich and I met with little successwith our efforts with other groups, so we pressed 500 LP's of Spyro Gyra on our own label with what little money we had left,. Within a year we had sold tens of thousands of records, signed a record deal and launched the band's career. In 1979, I moved to NYC to produce Morning Dance and lived there for four years. Catching the Sun, Carnaval and Freetime were also recorded during this time. My life was consumed with touring around the world, recording and writing.

Rich and I then purchased a turn-of-the-century stone farmhouse just outside of NYC and converted it into my own recording studio, BearTracks. This has provided Spyro Gyra with a great recording environment. Though I occasionally have recorded on records other than Spyro Gyra and have done other productions, (Dave Samuels and Tom Schuman), Spyro Gyra has been my main focus and has fulfilled most of my musical dreams. It has been over thirty-five years of great music, great friendship and great times.

The rest of my life is filled with my love for painting, gardening, hiking and all things outdoors but most of all with my daughters Claire, Alexandra and Isabel. They, more than anyone or anything else, have brought me inspiration and contentedness.

I was born April 28th, in the not too distant past, in Frederick, Maryland to Webster and Jeanette Lofton Ambush. I was preceded by my sister Cassandra, and followed by brother Peter and sister Tracy. Since my sister is two years older, and my brother five years younger, I guess I'd be considered the middle child. A psychological profile I think, would confirm this.

I attended Ubana Elementary School in Ubana, MD, West Frederick Middle, and Frederick High School. Although I managed above average grades, my mom was constantly bombarded with the dreaded "Talks too much in class" notes. I played in the jazz ensemble, ran track, and play on the football team.

[image] Scott Ambush Bass

I started playing the bass at twelve when my buddies decided to start a band. Since one of them already had a drumset, I became the bass player.(I've been a frustrated drummer ever since.) We began playing rock and roll by such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zepellin, Black Sabbath, Sly and the Family Stone, The Isley Brothers, Parliament/Funkadelic, and others.

A few years later, my cousin Allen turned me on to Return to Forever and Stanley Clarke. I was never the same. We formed a band playing "fusion" and straight ahead jazz, while also playing funk and R&B in other bands. Incidentally, my mother was a gospel singer, so there was also a lot of spiritual music in my household. This made for a very diverse` musical development. After high school, I attended the University of MD at College Park. While studying psychology during the day, I was introduced to the Washington, D.C. music scene at night.

Eventually I was spending more time playing than studying, and left school to pursue music. I played,(and still often do) with a wide variety of musicians and bands in the area. This exposure led to gigs with regional and national acts both locally and on the road. (see partial performance list.) Through word of mouth, I was recommended for the bass job with Spyro Gyra. After auditioning, I got the gig (obviously). The past five years touring with the band has been a great experience. We get to see the world, meet new people, and have our music appreciated by thousands of fans. What more could a middle child ask for?

Equipment List:

My stage setup is pretty straight forward. It starts with an Ambush Custom five-string bass. The signal goes into a Whirlwind Selector A/B box, where it is split. One side of the box feeds a Korg tuner, while the other feeds a Countryman direct box. This allows me to tune silently while on stage. The signal is split again at the direct box. One side feeding the house and monitor consoles the other side is fed into my stage rig. On stage I use an Eden Navigator preamp, fed into a QSC 3500 power amp, driving an Eden 4x10 cabinet. The cabinet is miked and fed to the house and monitor desks as well. As for effects, I sometimes use a TC Electronics chorus pedal and an EBS Octave pedal.

In addition to the Ambush basses, I sometimes use an Athlete acoustic bass guitar or a custom Jazz Bass with a Moses composite neck. In the studio, the bass goes direct to the console, and is combined with signal from either a miked Eden cabinet or the Navigator preamp.

My home home studio is a basic writer/project affair with Alesis ADAT, Mackie Board, Yamaha NS10 and KRK KROC monitors, various keyboards, Alesis DM5 drum module, Hart Dynamics Miltipad and kick drum triggers, a Power Computing CPU, MOTU Digital Preformer sequencing softwareand Pro Tools.

Check out Tom's Page for more info on Tom's new release!

Tom Schuman was born on January 31, 1958, in Buffalo, NY. His father, Wally, was a jazz bassist and his mother, Marion, was a jazz singer when they met. Greatly influenced by this family of musicians, Tom began playing piano by ear at age six. His parents were reluctant to give him lessons because of their own struggles with the music business. When they heard him playing jazz chords, improvising and writing tunes at age seven, they felt compelled to provide him with all of the musical support a child could possibly have.

Photo of Tom

He started studying classical piano in 1965. For five years he practiced every day after school but soon grew an aversion to classical piano because of its lack of freedom. He always preferred to "jam" on the classical chord structures instead of playing what was written. One of his teachers, Sandi Holland, was impressed with his natural talent and arranged for him to play and be interviewed on a local radio program. He played Chopin's Prelude in E-minor (as written). Then he played a jazz standard with his dad on bass and friend, Charlie Fadale, on drums. He picked "How Insensitive" because of its melodic similarities to the Chopin Prelude. He was eleven at the time. This experience gave him enough motivation to continue his musical education.

Tom began studying jazz theory, writing and arranging techniques as well as improvisational skills from a number of jazz pianists who were friends of the family. He also gained a lot of experience jamming with his dad at home as well as sitting in with many musician friends around town.

Tom's first "real" gig (other than church organist) was for his high school. He was asked to play the 1973 senior prom at a nearby banquet hall. Check this out! The hall had a dilapidated piano and when Tom pulled at the front of the piano the front legs buckled and the six-foot long, five hundred pound grand piano came crashing down on top of him! Luckily for Tom, he was not seriously hurt. But he had to finish out the gig with the piano resting on top of two garbage cans. To this day, he considers that to be the worst gig he ever played.

Well, to make a long story longer, he quickly began playing with a lot of local pop and jazz bands after joining the musicians' union. It was a great experience playing in night clubs at the age of sixteen. But more interesting and astonishing were the union gigs he ending up playing at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and prisons like Attica, Albion and the Monroe County jail in Rochester. He played these gigs with a band called "The Existing Reality" and later a contemporary jazz band, "Birthright".

Birthright gave Tom his first opportunity to compose and perform on a jazz record. While still only sixteen years old, he traveled to Europe to help promote and distribute Birthright's "Breath of Life" record. He did radio interviews and sat in with a lot of European musicians. All of this contributed to a realistic perspective of the profession early in his life.

Returning to Buffalo, Tom performed in concerts featuring a variety of jazz artists including Mark Murphy, Sammy Noto, and Grant Green. He also became a frequent presence in local jazz clubs sitting in with other musicians. He particularly enjoyed sitting in with this new band in town led by Jay Beckenstein and Jeremy Wall. The music was fresh and vibrant. It seemed as though all the rhythms of the world were being shared and he had his first chance to play those weird synthesizers everyone was talking about. Apparently, Jay and Jeremy both liked his playing enough to invite him to perform on their recording project. They called it Spyro Gyra!

Well, the rest is history. Tom has performed on all of Spyro Gyra's albums to date and has written or CO-written over thirty-five compositions since "Catching the Sun." He released his first solo record, "Extremities," in 1990 and has plans to continue his solo career along with his work with Spyro Gyra. His dream is to someday be able to balance his solo career with guest appearances on albums of other artists as well as Spyro Gyra and find the time to score a movie or two. Who knows, with music as a vehicle, there will be no limits to Tom's creative influences on the sounds of the future.

Tom has released five solo records, the latest being "Reflections Over Time". You can find out more about that album and the others at Tom’s website.

I was born in Havana, Cuba on August 29, 1954 and came to the USA in 1961. My family settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, a small town across the Hudson from Manhattan.

I started playing guitar at the age of nine, my father being my first and most influential teacher. Although his roots were in traditional Cuban music, he was very much into jazz and big band sounds. His playing style was a hybrid of these idioms and it always fascinated me to hear how he would take an otherwise simple tune, and turn it into something more harmonically & rhythmically complex. These were very valuable lessons.

Photo of Julio

Another major influence for me was rock & roll music. I think that the first time I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I started listening to and learning as much music as possible. I would practice 3 to 4 hours every day. By the time I was in high school, I was playing with different local bands and was very involved with the school music program. Unfortunately, guitar was not one of the offered instruments in the program, so I started playing the tuba. I think it weighed more than I did at the time. Anyway, I graduated in 1972 and went to Montclair State College, majoring in music education. I continued playing the tuba in college studying with Don Butterfield. By the time I was in my second year I decided it was time to take a leave of absence from college and start making a living playing the guitar.

In the mid 70's I took some Jazz workshops at "The Sound of Joy" music school in Manhattan. It was a very cool experience because the program also included private lessons and jazz improvisation classes. This was the place where I met a lot of musicians in the NY scene which led to me doing some session work in town. In 1977 I took a songwriting class at the School of Visual Arts with Lou Stallman, a well known songwriter and music publisher in NY. Through my assocation with Lou, I met a lot of people in the music business, including Gerardo Velez, the percussionist for Spyro Gyra at the time. Gerardo and I became good friends and started collaborating on various projects. In 1984, when Spyro Gyra was looking for a new guitarist, Gerardo got me an audition with the band. I remember being nervous, but I still gave it all I had. The next day I got a call from Phil Brennan, the band's manager, telling me the chair was mine. It was definitely one of the happiest days of my life.

I've been involved with the organization since 1984 and I must say that it's been a very rewarding and learning experience. As far as the future goes, my plan is to continue working with Spyro Gyra as well as doing a solo project and getting more involved in the production side of things, with Spyro as well as other projects.

Equipment List

My new ROAD RIG consists of:

  • Amps: RIVERA "Quiana" head driving a FENDER 2x12 cabinet loaded with Celstion "Vintage 30's"
  • Effects: FULLTONE "Full-Drive2",
  • FULLTONE "Clyde Wah",
  • BOSS Digital Delay,
  • BOSS Compressor,
  • BOSS Digital Tuner
  • Strings: DEAN MARKLEY SLP's on Electrics,
  • DEAN MARKLEY Vintage Bronze ML's on acoustics
  • Guitars: RONALDO Custom Strat with DiMarzzio pickups and a FISHMAN Powerbridge,
  • RONALDO Custom Tele with DiMarzzio pickups,
  • Washburn Acoustic with FISHMAN Transducer

In the studio, in addition to using the same rig as on the road, I'll use some of the following guitars and amps:

  • 1969 GIBSON Les Paul
  • RONALDO Custom Strat with EMG's
  • ALVAREZ and TAKAMINE classical guitars
  • HOHNER PS 400 Archtop
  • SEAGULL Acoustic
  • MESA/BOOGIE Studio pre-amp
  • FENDER Prosonic