Cyro Baptista: Banquet of the Spirits

Far-reaching, yet efficiently crafted, Banquet of the Spirits reigns in "world" music to refine and define its own distinctive world.

Cyro Baptista

Banquet of the Spirits

Label: Tzadik
US Release Date: 2008-03-18
UK Release Date: 2008-03-03

After your first listen to Cyro Baptista's Banquet of the Spirits, you'll quizzically ponder, "How would I best describe these 48 minutes? Is the album a multi-genre smorgasboard? A cerebral dinner-party album? Perhaps 'polyrhythmic soundscape' best suits?"

While all those phrases hint at the personality of these 11 tracks, I think you'll ultimately agree the most apt description is simply this: world music.

The clichéd hallmarks of world music -- "foreign" intonations, underscored by a healthy serving of "exotic" sound -- are certainly here, but in grand form. This album is a tribute to jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, and Baptista tempts the palate by recalling that artist's seminal, boundary-stretching trio work with Codona in the 1970s. Like Cherry, Baptista incorporates sitar, tabla, and Brazilian-influenced percussion into a jazz framework, sending your aural compass spinning in search of a cultural source. It is ultimately a very satisfying search, as other instruments -- oud, keys, mbira, accordion, cello, and a wide variety of percussion devices -- join in to propel the expedition. Far-reaching, yet efficiently crafted, Banquet of the Spirits reigns in "world" music to refine and define its own distinctive world.

Although the get-up-and-go psychedelic rock punch of "Tutubole" opens the album, it is the six-plus shape-shifting minutes of "Bird Boy" that best introduce the album's tempestuous tenor. After a waltzing start, the song takes flight into a percussive Hammond-led dance frenzy. A team of ethnomusicologists would scratch their heads at "Macunaima", as it squeezes light-hearted exotica, free jazz, post-bop, and wall-of-sound rock into seven deliriously exhausting and enjoyable minutes. Indeed, this initial half of the album echoes Baptista's previous releases on Tzadik -- 2002's Beat the Donkey and 2005's Love the Donkey -- by reimagining his Brazilian roots with a variety of downtown influences to stamp out a unique brand of upbeat party music.

The latter half of Banquet turns down the volume slightly and showcases Baptista's compositional skill and aptitude in forging connections between longitudes. "Tupinambás" is a two-minute classical reverie which segues into the Middle East exotica of "Argan". A typewriter offers percussion for the minimalist "Typing with Oswald de Andrade" before the mourning oud number "Lamento Mourisco" transitions into the delightfully airy Cherry cover "Malinye".

The last track, "Anthropofagia", is a mostly spoken-word, tongue-in-cheek treatise focusing on both literal and metaphorical cannibalism. It culminates:

We eat everything that arrives in our country

We ate the American Constitution...

Jimi Hendrix… Shakespeare… JFK… Donald Trump…

Jumbo trains… Charlie Parker… Hollywood… Imperialism…

And we keep eating and eating forever

We never stop!

The track then bursts into an anthemic climax of sound that shuffles across disparate tempos and rhythmic rudiments to close the heady Banquet with a bang. It's his skillful, cannibalistic genre-absorption that has prompted several prominent one-namers to call on Cyro for his expertise -- including Sting, Yo-Yo, Herbie, Simon, and Trey -- during this artist's 30 years of residence in the US. I guarantee that Baptista's name appears within the liner notes of any discerning record collection. Banquet of the Spirits is a necessary addition to those shelves. Let's hope Baptista never gets full and continues to serve up delicacies as delicious as this.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.