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Beat the Donkey

Cyro Baptista

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Album Review

Make no mistake — Beat the Donkey (translated from the Portuguese "Pau la Mula" as "let's go" or "let's do it") is not a reference to animal cruelty, but percussion Cyro Baptista's calling card to party. This debut recording for the group is split into fragments of small ensembles, a rotating cadre of players (a sextet at best) from many different disciplines. They range from riotous celebratory dance to multi-ethnic elements, cerebral, lighthearted, at times goofy and at other times heavy. There is no real core band, but rather a Gypsy circus loose association with Baptista clearly the madcap ringleader. Brazilian music can be the center of Beat the Donkey, but also Balkan sounds, nomadic music, rock and funk, and a festive attitude that surely appeals to summertime outdoor merrymaking. Carnival meets hard rock circus at a stoner party during "Caranguejo Estrela Brilhante" (The Crab and the Shining Star) with fuzz guitar from Viva DeConcini and electric cello by Erik Friedlander; an expressive madlib rock & roll style identifies "O Canto da Ema," centered by Marc Ribot's wah-wah guitar; and the ethnic "Mr. Bugaloo" is a percussion workout accented by John Zorn's sax and the accordion of Toninho Ferragutti. On the softer side is the excellent "Parar de Fumar," a pleasant straight samba with featured clarinetist Anat Cohen. A circular acoustic guitar from Ribot during "Cyrandeiro" recalls West African kora music, while the sweet "Sapo and the Prince" has the wonderful vocalist Luciana Souza singing encouragement to a frog reluctantly turned prince, shaded by blown bottle sounds and finger snaps. "Rio de Jakarta" is the perfect melding of Balinese gamelan and layered Brazilian rhythms; a 6/8 "Ama" is rife with handclaps, the melody expertly played by guitarist Romero Lubambo similar to the Gypsy anthem "Dark Eyes"; while bloogles or sound tubes send the band into space during the dark and bizarre "Sweet Cuica" and the percussion-based "Funk I," the latter piece recorded live at La Plaza in Boston via radio station WGBH-FM. At some point, a more extensive live recording with a fixed band should be in the offering to fully hear Beat the Donkey's worldwide, expressive, and exuberant repertoire. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Accomplished musician Cyro Baptista has played the complete range of percussion instruments from his native Brazil, as well as many other world music instruments. Based out of New York, he showed up on a Paquito d'Rivera release, and on John Zorn's film works in the mid-'80s, and Baptista continued to appear on the occasional Zorn release throughout the '90s. Other artists Baptista worked with through both decades demonstrate his versatility: Laurie Anderson and Herbie Mann. He has backed Brazilian...
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Beat the Donkey, Cyro Baptista
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