Cyro Baptista

Love the Donkey

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Three years after his Tzadik debut, Beat the Donkey, Brazilian master percussionist Cyro Baptista returns with its mirror image, Love the Donkey. Like its predecessor, Baptista employs a host of players, some from the Latin jazz scene, fellow Brazilians, and some notable downtown faces like Jamie Saft (who produced and engineered this set), Mark Feldman, and Peter Apfelbaum, to name a few. This is a wild and woolly brew that parties from start to finish. While there is some abstract experimentation here, when it is applied, it is integrated into the whole of what Baptista and his collaborators are going for: a solid program of folk melodies and tribal polyrhythms that takes no prisoners. They weave jazz, new music, classical music, and even rock (the most amazing cover of Led Zep's "Immigrant Song" ever recorded, and one that rivals the original) into the brave, songlike heart of Brazil's wonderfully rich musical tapestry. Baptista -- who plays over two dozen instruments here -- holds court over a group of players, dancers, singers, handclappers, and who knows who else over the course of 14 tunes. This is wild, untamed, and wondrously joyous music. It has no seams, it is truly international, and it is ultimately visionary. Baptista restrained himself last time out; he sought texture and nuance on many of the pieces on Beat the Donkey; he sought to bring jazz and new music to samba in a new way. Here, he goes back before samba and MPB to the old ways, where music was the lifeblood of the people, all the people. With Love the Donkey, Baptista has done what was seemingly impossible. As urban musicians strive to learn more about roots music to incorporate into their sound, he has done the reverse: found the music of the city, of the modern, and of the postmodern, and made it serve folk music. In this wild and woolly party, where almost anything goes, the ancient is tied inseparably to the present, and creates a new and joyous future. Not since Airto's Free has a musician done so much to address culture clash and undo it without anger, without academic pretentiousness or theoretical distance. This is street music, for any street anywhere. It may initially come from Brazil, but it is available to anyone who wishes to encounter it and take it in. For intense listening or for raucous partying, Love the Donkey is a masterpiece. The disc also includes a three-minute video, playable on your computer, that offers a view of this wild band live.

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