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11.05.08

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Phaedra

Mirror Man : Cyro Baptista comes to Kuumbwa this Monday.

Beat Generation

Percussionist Cyro Baptista takes his crazy big drumming talent to Kuumbwa.

By Curtis Cartier


World music. Never has a more ambiguous term been coined. If it's not any music made in "the world," is it feisty African tribal rhythms? Spicy Latin sambas? Guttural Celtic bagpipe jams? Maybe a little of each?

For Brazilian-born Cyro Baptista, "world music" may be the term most often settled on by frustrated journalists attempting to classify the jazz percussion freak shows he calls records. But, like most musicians in this position, that's the way he likes it.

In the 28 years he's been in America, Baptista has earned himself a place on the speed dials of a laundry list of musical greats who look to him whenever they need ghostly Latin-tinged soundscapes or wildly inventive beats that defy categorization. And with an upcoming gig at Kuumbwa Nov. 10, the 57-year-old beatmaster and his truckload of drums are looking to pound Santa Cruz into submission.

Baptista's latest solo album, Banquet of the Sprits, is an indefinable melting pot of jazz, rock, electronica, salsa, hip-hop and everything in between. Out since March on Tzadik Records, Banquet's standout tracks include "Bird Boy," which pits the lazy Old World squeeze of an accordion against the playful strumming of the Arabic oud before descending into utter jazz madness. The Latin-soaked "Macunaima" begins with sexy drums and delicate piano before taking a wild turn toward the beach with a surf rock guitar breakdown. And "Nana Tom" starts with childlike guitars matching tambourine shakes but quickly becomes a rump-shaking dance floor burner, complete with chanting vocals and rattling bass lines.

Some musicians seclude themselves in dark basements and messy hotel rooms, inventing songs like mad scientists in secret labs before unleashing their work on unsuspecting listeners. Others, like Baptista, are as much musical talent scouts as they are composers. A regular touring companion of Trey Anastasio and John Zorn, as well as Herbie Hancock, Baptista has also worked with Brian Eno, Carlos Santana, Sting and Yo-Yo Ma. He has helped record five Grammy-winning albums and has two that he won himself. His 2002 percussion and dance ensemble Beat the Donkey toured the world and garnered heaps of international acclaim. But it's been his solo albums, in which he's been allowed to handpick a dream team of international artists that has set him apart as a true musical pioneer.


CYRO BAPTISTA Monday, Nov. 10, at 7pm at Kuumbwa, 320 Cedar St. #2, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $22 advance/$25 door. (831.427.2227; www.kuumbwajazz.org)


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