Last Thursday night at Tonic was nothing but cálido. On stage were Tonic heroes John Zorn and Marc Ribot sitting quietly in the corner waiting for the cue of the man of the night, Cyro Baptista. Baptista who is Brazilian, has established himself as a world class percussion player among critics and played with several mainstream musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and Sting. Baptista has also expressed himself as somewhat of a maverick by way of his against the grain fusion work with musicians like John Zorn and Trey Anastasio. Baptista began his set with a distant melody of the Brazilian drone instrument the berimbau and the looping of bird chirping. Organic and exotic utterances from very unusual instruments seemed foreign yet welcomed in the spare cement interior of the club. Part wild Pied Piper and part jester Baptista welcomed us into his world where all sound becomes music. The list of instruments and objects used on stage and in the studio ranged from the Brazilian pandiero to frog bells, a refrigerator and Coca-Cola bottles. Just as Baptista established an ambiance of the electronically looped berimbau, bird calls and a chant in Portuguese, we heard the echoed harmony of bottles blown upon as a succession of men and women march through the crowd to join the aura on stage. The band busted into a funky dance beat and a chunky groove provided by Marc Ribot. Baptista roared along with the rhythm, a celebration of dance and percussion exploded on stage. Baptista played a percussive arsenal of electronic pads, cuicas, jaw harps, bells and congas. The rest of Beat the Donkey included a kit drummer, two percussive dancers, and a timbale player, all of whom flood rhythms that intoxicated the crowd to dance as if we were on the streets for Carnival. Playing with Ribot on guitar is Viva De Concini, who surprised us all from behind the Kangol hat with several nasty distortion laden guitar solos. This aggressive guitar work was heard later in the set as the sound of the music shifts to more rock/punk arrangement. This mood change provided a darker tone and space for John Zorn and Marc Ribot to rip several streaming solos that gave the music an almost psychedelic feel.
Baptista who obviously liked to keep his music in flux, ushered the band from its overdrive course to more back-beat soul funk that was reminiscent of Maceo Parker or George Clinton. Plenty of wah-wah and velvet top hats made you feel as though P-Funk took a vacation to San Paulo and learned capoeira.
Brazilian accent was all over the music as the set continued spinning itself with hints of samba, funk, rock and hip-hop. Cyro closed the show dynamically reining in the stampede he had let loose with a stomp. The crowd roared with joy and smiles, the band smiling back, everyone having fun.
Cyro shook his beaker of culture, genre and rhythm that night and those of us who had sought musical intoxication or just to shake some booty were satiated with tunes that were danceable, positive and at times a bit absurd. This was my first Cyro Baptista show and I am definitely hooked. Tonic was an appropriate venue for him to let loose for his album release and let the full effect of his eclectic arrangements and dance party band to take hold of the crowd. I would have wanted to hear more from John Zorn, but when he did play it was impressive and well suited for the course and ambiance crafted by Baptista. Cyro Baptista's Brazilian background was obvious through his association of music with therapy. He and Zorn joked, "We made some people sick and we cured some too".
For a calendar of New York area events, visit Ben Pomeroy's website at GothamJazz.Com.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.