Back in the mid-70’s, as a young college student, I was taken hard by jazz. Although I had always liked jazz, it wasn’t until I was introduced to Chuck Mancuso at Buffalo State College and became a member of the Buff State Jazz Ensemble that I really took to the music. Like a religious fervor, I started going to as many performances as I could.
In this period, we began to see the infectious music of Spyro Gyra begin to emerge in bars such as Mr. Goodbar and the legendary old Tralf . We saw the nascent talent of Bobby Militello grow in the ‘70’s while catching him at various venues – including Mr. Goodbar. During this time, there was one enormous saxophone player who seemed to be the glue for all the players.
Phil DiRe served as the director of the Association For Jazz Performance and its performing ensemble, which was funded by grants. In the summer, at the Delaware Park Casino, Phil brought together the likes of Jay Beckenstein on sax and Jeremy Walls on keyboards – who went on to form Spyro Gyra. Others in that era, who performed with Phil and AJP included Al Tinney and Sabu Adeyola. As a youngster soaking up live jazz, and for many of us, it was a magnificent time. Check out this old poster of the Buffalo Jazz Ensemble, which served as the ensemble band for AJP (courtesy, with many thanks, of Gus Russo):
Recently, and after a 20 year hiatus from jazz performing, Phil formed the “Buffalo Bop” featuring Bobby Militello, Sabu Adeyola, Richie Merlo, George Caldwell, and legendary master drummer Louie Marino. And, what a great return it was and still is. “Buffalo Bop” went on to win the Artvoice Award for Best Jazz Group.
Here is a video of Phil DiRe perfroming recently with Dave Schiavone, Russ Algera, George Caldwell, and Jim Coleman (video courtesy of Jon Lehning):
This Sunday, July 6, for the first performance of the Buffalo News – Albright Knox Art Gallery Jazz Summer Series, we get to witness the reunion of Phil DiRe and Jay Beckenstein in a very special concert beginning at 2pm. As we all know, Jay Beckenstein and Spyro Gyra sky rocketed to fame all over the world in the last 25 years. A special and rare homecoming appearance it will be for Jay. Joining Phil and Jay will be Matt Michaud on guitar, Tim Clarke on trumpet, Buddy Fadale on bass, Bobby Jones on keyboards, and Dan Hull on drums.
The reunion of Phil DiRe and Jay Beckenstein, with the rest of the group, represents a symbolic bridge of the era of exploding talent in the ‘70’s to those, such as Tim Clarke, Matt Michaud, and Danny Ziemann making their mark in a new era of jazz resurgence in Buffalo.
It is a wonderful occasion. Although it has been two years since Phil has returned, let us all mark this day as a celebration of his return and his influence on the Buffalo Jazz scene over the past 30 plus years.
The concert is scheduled to take place in front of the steps of the art gallery beginning at 2pm with a rain date scheduled for August 10th. Let us hope we don’t have to use the rain date!
Keep Jazz Alive In WNY!