Cyro Baptista - Chama

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2023 release

Though a prolific sideman, Chama marks the first album to appear under composer and master percussionist Cyro Baptista's name in seven years, and his Ropeadope debut. It was recorded in seven different studios over several years. As one might expect, it offers a fluctuating lineup on each cut. Among its players are old friends and collaborators including Laurie Anderson, Jamie Saft, Brian Marsella, and guitarists Todd Clouser and Romero Lubambo. Baptista composed and arranged all but one track.

Opener "Fast Forward" is a jaunty carnival number driven by Felipe Hostins' syncopated accordion grooves and a samba beat from drummer Gil Oliveira. Baptista plays berimbau, driving a second rhythm under the squeeze box as Jorge Continentino paints the melodic vamp with his fife. "Gato Morto ... Gotta Move" is a rangey, exotic blues with Clouser and Kevin Breit on guitars; its pulse is driven by Batista's surdo (a large bass drum) and berimbau, highlighting Aaron Cruz Leona's bassline, which is framed by the band's ghostly vocal chant and Cruz's moaning harmonica. "Afrisky" is a set highlight offered completely solo. Batista weaves a beat-laden spell from the soils of West Africa, Brazil, and Cuba. He plays nine percussion instruments, offering a hypnotic groove that perfectly foreshadows the proceeding title cut that weds cumbia, flamenco, and afoxe. He plays an army of percussion (including a glass shaker and whips). John Lee's acoustic guitar and Breit's mandola join accordion, bass, and drums under a tender lyric chant from the bandleader and Carlos Eduardo Costa. "A Drop in the Ocean" is like a film score, with dramatic, extended tones and episodic musical changes. It flows directly into the Mexican standard "La Bamba," delivered with rhythmic accordion pulsing under Lubambo's guitar and Aaron Cruz Leona's bajo sexto. The ethereal chorus vocals by Batista and Pamela Driggs add another worldly dimension making it sound old world and contemporary at the same time. "Annuntiato" is an almost ambient duo performance by Laurie Anderson (strings) and the percussionist. He creates modes and an implied melody on his plethora of instruments while she adds effects and layered violins. "Constellation" commences inabstractionn. Joined by Marsella on keys and pan flute, and Franck Villard on drums, the chaotic yet essential jam flirts with industrial, jazz, samba, and Andean folk with an infectious melody. A homemade berimbau is the centerpiece of "CandomBlues," its single string and bow duel with hand percussion and chants from Batista and Sergio Krakowski. The funky, percolating "Paramaribo," with its shifting polyrhythmic palette, sets four singing voices against interlocked cumbia, rocksteady, descarga, and mariachi rhythms, all entwined by rhythms from Baptista, Oliveira, and Marsella. Clay Ross' stinging electric guitar and Marsella's Gregg Rolie-esque organ exchange heated lines before the vocalists chant it out.

Batista has never released a substandard album. Chama not only sustains his streak, but its wildly creative, deep groove-laden compositions are simultaneously exploratory and celebratory. Despite the long wait, this album stands with his best work.

Thom Jurek 


SKU 197368647081
Barcode # 197368647081
Brand Ropeadope

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