Brazilian performer and bandleader Cyro Baptista is widely considered the premier percussionist on the planet, bringing his unique charm and undeniable rhythmic drive to countless stages, performing on numerous Grammy Award-winning recordings, and collaborating with myriad luminaries such as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Yo-Yo Ma, Caetano Veloso, and many others. Described by Thom Jurek of All Music as “simply one of the most limitless musicians we have,” Baptista’s many honors include the DownBeat Critics Poll Percussionist of the Year in 2013 and 2011, Jazz Journalists Association Percussionist of the Year in 2010 and 2007, Drum Magazine Percussionist of the Year in 2004 and 2003, and US Artists Walker Fellow in 2009/10.
Recent seasons have seen Baptista touring heavily with Phish lead-singer Trey Anastasio. Meanwhile, his community building project through music, the Sound of Community, continues to grow, with recent iterations in both Japan and Mexico that interlace professional musicians and non-musicians participating in workshops and a public performance. As a 2017 artist-in-residence at the University of Buffalo’s Creative Arts Alliance, Cyro was commissioned to compose music played on a newly created public art sculpture, leading musicians and non-musicians in a performance at the ArtPark in Niagara Falls, New York. Baptista has also been collaborating with drummer Billy Martin (Medeski Martin & Wood) on annual five day percussion/drum camps that invite over fifty musicians, along with guest teachers, to participate.
As a bandleader, Baptista’s inimitable world music quartet, Banquet of the Spirits, embodies the Brazilian philosophy of anthropofagia, or cultural cannibalism, as a creative imperative. Described by All About Jazz as “a must-listen,” and “a diversity of sounds and colors that can't be found anywhere else,” the group draws freely from an expansive array of musics from around the globe, combining Afro-Brazilian beats with improvised, experimental jazz trappings. Banquet of the Spirits has performed internationally at such venues as the Newport Jazz Fest, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Village Vanguard, the Wexner Center, Town Hall NYC, SFJAZZ, Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, SESC Pompeia in São Paulo, the Adelaide Festival in Australia and many more. The group has released three albums on Tzadik, each hailed by critics for their infectious grooves and sheer elemental beauty, most recently receiving a five out of five star rating from All About Jazz. In 2012, they recorded Zorn’s Mount Analogue, along with vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, producing an album which was declared by All Music “one of [Zorn’s] greatest achievements.” Banquet is preparing to put out their latest album with a release event at the legendary Village Vanguard in New York City.
Baptista’s critically acclaimed, seven-plus-member ensemble, Beat the Donkey, or “Pau Na Mula” (Brazilian slang meaning “Let’s go!” or “Let’s do it!”), performs with the wild, joyous energy of a carnival drum line, fusing music, dance, humor and madcap theatrics into unforgettable events. The project has toured to major venues and festivals including Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Grand Performances in Los Angeles, Detroit International Jazz Fest, Quebec City Summer Fest, the Chicago World Music Fest, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Krannert Center, the Hancher Auditorium, the Walker Art Center, George Washington University, Central Park Summerstage, FloydFest in Virginia, and 92nd Street Y. Beat the Donkey’s self-titled release was selected by The New York Times’ Jon Pareles as one of the top ten alternative albums of the year, and by The Wire as a top ten Global Music album of the year.
Baptista has performed on hundreds of recordings, composed music for Nickelodeon, and appeared in major motion pictures, including 2008’s “Rachael’s Getting Married” and 2007’s “Across the Universe.” He has performed as guest artist with many major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and others. As an educator, he as conducted workshops and master classes at The Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, Mannes College of Music, The New School, New World Symphony Orchestra, Kimmel Center Jazz Camp, the University of Buffalo and many others.
Banquet of the Spirits Manifesto:
"This band is a musical manifestation of the process of eating, swallowing, and digesting all the tendencies that are part of the sonic landscape. The music is a product of the sounds these players have collectively consumed over the years; some of them they have digested and others they have rejected. Through this process it has been difficult to identify what belongs to what country, culture, or religion.
We all have the anthropofagic nature within us
We devour each other seeking transformation
The mouth is sacred because of all the things that come in and go out
We eat, we speak, we kiss, we smile and sing
The mouth is the portal to our brain, stomach and heart
The mouth is the system connecting our intellect, emotion and spirit
And it digests everybody and everything in its path
All is gloriously regurgitated
We choose the essentials
And eat again