The word Rhythmos (also the title of this superb album by “rhythmists” Amir Ziv, Cyro Baptista and Billy Martin comes from the Greek word ρυθμός (rhythmos) and was ascribed to the arts of music, dance and poetry since ancient times. The Greeks found ways relocate its pulsations to the arts mentioned above; even to the architecture of the civilization. The Greeks also used the word μίμησης (mimesis which translates as ‘imitation’)to describe the practice of art, thus giving rise to the suggestion – in Socratic, Platonic and Aristotelian treatises – that art imitated life. Plato suggested that all ‘citizens’ must be educated in ‘good art’, and ‘good art’ is that in which not only is the imitation – all art being imitative – as true as it is possible to make it, but also the object imitated is beautiful or good (Plato’s word – καλός which he used to mean ‘good’, ‘noble’ and ‘beautiful’).
Aristotle, in his monumental work on aesthetics entitled Περὶ ποιητικῆς (Poetics), wrote about Poetics, Politics (Bk VIII) and Rhetoric, guiding principles which governed the making of epic poetry and dramatic art. In it he wrote: “there are some arts which make use of all the media (I have mentioned), that is rhythm, music, and formal metre; such are dithyrambic and nomic (an ancient type of ode), tragedy and comedy…” Horace found likewise, as did Longinus as poets from Homer to Pindar to Pound found used rhythm to fashion the noblest and most enduring art of poetry. As in poetry so also in dance… and music, before language was distilled from the multitude of the Babelian cacophony of dialects and codified, rhythm – and therefore music and dance – strove to ‘imitate’ in the most noble and beautiful way – life itself. And who better to do so than the musician/drummer… from ancient to modern times.
This live album, Rhythmos is born of that same lofty ideal. Judging by the music that is contained in here, it would seem that there are few musicians more eminently qualified to create this imitation of life than Amir Ziv, Cyro Baptista and Billy Martin. Making this music so that not only the ear, but more importantly, the mind’s ear could endure almost an hour of it is a very tall order. But these three musicians have succeeded with enormous splendor. Amir Ziv plays with great power and delicacy throughout, treating the skin of the drum-heads as if they were a part of his own body that was being stretched and relaxed while being tattooed with sticks, mallets and brushes the rhythm of a dancing body. Cymbals of various sizes, strengths and temperaments are not so much struck as they are caressed. The result, as you would imagine, is magical.
Cyro Baptista is one of the greatest young masters of percussion colouring. He wields one of the most enormous collections of manufactured and found instruments – from surdo, pandeiro, caxixi and cuica to shells, dangling keys and other found instruments. Then there is an assortment of hollow pipes, the berimbau, empty bottles and heaven knows what else in his armoury. These he plays and manipulates to produce the most incredible range not only of rhythmic tempi but, when overlapped with one another, a wondrous harmonic accompaniment. Using also his voice to sing, chant and narrate stories and principles of Brasilian poet Oswaldo de Andrade’s Manifesto Antropófago, a celebrated cultural palimpsest from the early 20th century. Mr Baptista is one of the most celebrated subscribers to the old manifesto, which he has re-fashioned and remodeled to include all improvised music.
Billy Martin, the third percussion colourist plays a role dramatically different from the one he played in the celebrated trio: Medeski, Martin and Wood. His role in this musical trio sits astride both drums and percussion. He adds a thunderous wall of sound to the music of this disc with from conventional drum set to all manner of custom built percussion. Mr Martin adds what is perhaps the most “visual” or painterly aspect to the music and this comes from his ability to conceive of music in a visual realm as well. This extra-dimensional aspect of Mr Martin’s music serves him extremely well on such songs as “Head to Three’, “Lensed Star 1”, “Cloudina” and “Early One Morning” – all of which are transformed by his highly angular and original voice and vision.
The album ends with “We’ll Meet Again”, a song that is both prophetic and exhilarating – as you may gauge from the audience response to the song – yes, it is a “song”. As the last notes of the music echo and fade out with the audience cheers, you will – as I was – find yourself hoping that the next project will come around the corner sooner rather than later. This is sonic poetry not only in the finest Socratic, Platonic and Aristotelian tradition, but a memorable new palimpsest authored and performed by three outstanding practitioners of the art of dancing percussion also in the finest tradition of the imitation of life on an album to die for…
Track list – 1: We’re On; 2: Radio Larry; 3: Cloudina; 4: BAMZ; 5: Head To Three; 6: Wait A Minute; 7: Lensed Star 1; 8: ABCZ; 9: Marinara; 10: Lafitte; 11: Early One Morning; 12: MC BB; 13: Chiseler; 14: We’ll Meet Again
Personnel – Amir Ziv: drums and percussion; Cyro Baptista: percussion, berimbau and voice; Billy Martin: percussion
Released – 2019
Label – System Dialing Records
Runtime – 58:42