America has been great to Brazil-born Cyro Baptista

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      Sonic adventurer Cyro Baptista admits to a tricky domestic problem. The 58-year-old Brazilian master percussionist collects or creates so many instruments that they’re filling up his house. And he can’t resist the desire for more.

      “The place looks like a percussion museum now, and I’m not sure my wife likes this,” says Baptista with a laugh, reached at his New Jersey home. “I’m always finding new ones on my travels. And I love going to hardware stores and junkyards—you can discover incredible sounds there. For inspiration I just listen to my environment. In Brazil, I grew up near the rainforest, and I emulated the birds, the trees, the wind, the thunder, the river. But since I’ve been in New York City, it’s things like the sound of the subway.”

      Baptista first came to the Big Apple in the early ’80s, after studying percussion at the Creative Music Studio in upstate New York. “I had only $70 at the time,” Baptista recalls. “Not only did I play in the subway, I was also living there. It was a serious struggle, but a good victory. There were amazing musicians from so many cultures around, and I learned a lot from them. We made a percussion group on the street, and from that we got invited to do a recording. Then the doors started to open.”

      Word spread through New York’s music community and beyond of Baptista’s exceptional dexterity, versatility, and playful inventiveness. He was recruited by jazz giant John Zorn for a series of projects, and over the past 25 years he’s worked with many other major artists, including Laurie Anderson, Wynton Marsalis, David Byrne, Paul Simon, Cassandra Wilson, Yo-Yo Ma, Trey Anastasio, Snoop Dogg, Herbie Hancock, and Sting.

      As a consequence, Baptista has absorbed a rich variety of musical influences. They come together in the genre-hopping compositions he’s written or cowritten for his quartet Banquet of the Spirits. The band, formed in 2007, has put out two critically hailed albums: a self-titled debut and last summer’s Infinito. Both feature a brilliantly kaleidoscopic and multitextured mix of Brazilian dance rhythms (such as maracatu, samba, and baií£o), postbop and progressive Latin jazz, sophisticated pop-rock, and flavours from Moroccan and Middle Eastern folk traditions.

      “The music is the product of everything I’ve learned, put in a blender,” says Baptista. “The arrangements of songs are not fixed. I want to leave room to improvise, and be aware of the possibilities that can open up in performance. Like sometimes, if one of us does a big mistake and it sounds great, we’ll use it to go in a new direction. I remember Herbie Hancock once telling me, ”˜I love what you’re doing, but I think you’re repeating yourself.’ He was making the point that I needed to take more risks, to not get settled. That’s why in Banquet of the Spirits we try constantly to discover new ways to play the same songs, and this keeps us honest and fresh.”

      Cyro Baptista and Banquet of the Spirits play the Capilano Performing Arts Theatre on Sunday (November 1).