Cyro Baptista:banquet of the Spirits


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By: Dennis Cook

A gyroscope of delighted, percussive fracture, Cyro Baptista's newest offering, Banquet of the Spirits (Tzadik), whistles and thumps and generally trundles with twisted smarts, a cumulative treat that brick builds a solid, fully unique “thing" befitting of the hyper gifted percussionist/visionary. A fixture of NYC's downtown jazz scene and Trey Anastasio alumni as well as a powerful hired gun for Sting and Paul Simon, Baptista reaches full maturity as a solo artist on Banquet. The most “Brazilian" outing yet for this Brazilian boy caught between the moon and New York City, this skitters like a fiddler crab on PCP - a little nervy, wild and bouncing with possessed motion. What differentiates this from previous solo works is the cohesion of his core band - Brian Marsella (keys), Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (oud, bass, gimbri), Tim Keiper (drum set, percussion) and Baptista on percussion and vocals. Guests like John Zorn on sax and cellist Erik Friedlander certainly don't distract but it's the basic unit that swings in such an alluring way here.

Banquet is precisely what the title suggests - a tasty steam table of soulful music - touched by a cartoon sensibility that makes room for shuddering non-sequiters, surf rock, trad jazz, devil horn metal and ritual music. The choice of material is top notch, too, dipping twice into Don Cherry's trick bag ("Bird Boy," “Malinye"), co-writing a pair with fellow Brazilian percussion whiz Nana Vasconcelos - both moves a direct nod to Cherry and Vasconcelos' groundbreaking '70s work in Codona - and generally sharpening his original compositions a good deal.

Wildness is swell but it's most effective (and satisfying) when delivered within a framework that maintains an internal logic. On Banquet of the Spirits, Baptista enters the rarified bizarro realms of Tom Ze and Os Mutantes, merging the tuneful and tweaked in ways that simultaneously celebrates and erases the differences between the strains. Bent things can be extra fun because they allow us to probe our world from new angles. Banquet is a fantastically malformed tool to burrow away with.

For further insights into Cyro Baptista check out our 2003 conversation with the man.

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