Cap Jazz Series
Cyro Baptista — Banquet of the Spirits

Dates and Venue 1 November 2009, 8pm | Capilano Performing Arts Theatre

Reviewer Sasha Dryden

From a stage-weaving entrance in a silver cape that evoked the memory of psychedelic Sun Ra, to an encore chant-song titled Anthropofagia (translated as human eating) about Brazil’s culture-absorbing history, Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits quartet provided a tour-de-force evening of trickster-energy laden performance combined with fearless musical exploration.

The quartet combined musicians with clearly distinct individual styles ranging from spirited Klezmer to folk and rhythmic rock to beautifully sultry Afro-Cuban-Calypso, into a seamless blend of inspired cultural fusion. A tilt of hip-rocking cha-cha groove snapped into metal-western twang played unpredictably on South American gourd guitar-like instruments, then samba-rocked all the way to Brazil before snake-like weaving back to the beats of whispering, breathy lyrics. All invisibly guided by the relaxed direction of experimental percussive maestro Cyro Baptista.

Disappearing periodically off-stage mid-set, Baptista let the members of the band expand and shine. A sweetly soulful rock tune sung and beat on an oud-like gourd by co-percussionist Tim Keiper had us swaying our heads until the irreverent Klezmer-beat duo of Brian Marsella on keyboards and hilarious make-shift elastic tubing whistle, and Bassist/Oud player Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz whipped us up with a giggling folkish frenzy.

At the end of the hour-plus set, categorizing the ever-sultry, rambling and spirited music was impossible. What remained was their insatiable urge to create music with a percussive drive from any and all objects and combinations in an infectious spirited sense of play and joy in the experience.

As a fan of Cyro Baptista, I’ve heard him play in numerous configurations, from John Zorn’s Electric Masada to contributions on Sting tunes, but never before with one of his own bands. As band-leader, his imagination and skill remained present, however also evident was the space and generosity afforded each musician and the quartet as a combined entity. The music: every whistle, ping and zing, each percussive thwack or sweet soul smack, was explored and enjoyed. His seemingly invisible direction always pushed us further into the realm of drama and the musically theatrical to include rising crescendos followed by subtle lyrical breathers.

As hoped, the music provided an All Saints Day banquet for the senses. Next time, I’d hope to hear them in a dance venue, rather than the formal confines of Capilano Performing Arts Theatre, though the programmers can be commended for such bold and inspired avante garde programming.

© 2009 Sasha Dryden