By: Dennis Cook
There are musicians whose presence bestows a stamp of quality and originality regardless of the specific project, and Cyro Baptista is surely of this breed. He infects music with his joyful gusto for his craft, leaving one slightly heated and nicely agitated. One quickly picks up on this energy with opener "Infinito Coming," a mighty updraft that lifts feet from the cold, cold ground. Baptista's current ensemble, Banquet of the Spirits, is a warming delight. Playful, wildly open-minded and technically gifted, Cyro and his Banquet unfurl huge splashes of color and texture on Infinito (released July 28 on Tzadik), which successfully attaches a vibrant Brazilian spirit to fusion, folk and pop forms and free range spaces all their own.
"Batida de Coco" is the sort of smarty-pants Latinismo that Weather Report blew minds with in the '70s, but given delineated curviness by Anat Cohen's saxophone and Romero Lubambo's acoustic guitar, just two of the many talented guests, which include Erik Friedlander, Ikue Mori and Cyro's other ensemble, Beat The Donkey. Things open up into ambient-but-not-sleepy exploration with "In Vitrous" before the organ and electric piano punctuated "Kwanza," which moves like a flying carpet over open plains, past temples sounding bells and out into thin atmosphere. One picks up a strong Piazzolla vibe in the last section, too. And there's the floating delicacy of "Noia," the Baden Powell-like "Adeus As Filhas," the synth slashed invocation of "Coronation of a Slave Queen" and more and more. Everywhere the ear lands there is sustenance, comfort food in an age of so much dipshit shock 'n' awe, music actively embracing being a product rather than labors of love like this set.
Without question, this is one of Baptista's meatiest, most readily engaging works. Infinito tempers his crazed experimental side (which I personally adore) with the countless traditions, styles, etc. he's been involved with over the years. The level of composition here is sky high, and the album's central approach is congruent with Baptista's forebears like Egberto Gismonti and Gilberto Gil, but infused with many un-Brazilian aspects, the nectar drawn from years of fearlessly and enthusiastically poking his stinger into all manner of music. Surrounded by a core group anxious to engage sound with a lustiness to rival his own, Cyro Baptista seems on the precipice of wider acclaim and this latest offering is perhaps the great leap out that will help put his work as a bandleader on the same level as his already well earned reputation as one of the finest session players alive.
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