The Devil & The Diamond - Matuto


Wouldn’t it be cool if cultures were as diverse in markings as they are in traditions? Humanity would intermingle and produce offspring, which like snowflakes, no two wearing exactly with the same set of spots or stripes or shades; no racial profiling because there would be too many categories and colours to keep track of. Music is often spoken of in terms of colours and shades; pastoral greens, red hots or black anger. And, while the best humanity can look forward to is that we eventually become an inter-racial sea of beige, our music becomes increasingly more vibrant the more we add cultural colours to it. New York City provides the biggest Pollock canvas in North America onto which to flick the riot of hues that make up its cultural mélange. Matuto is a six-piece NYC band that links folkloric rhythms from the backcountries of both Appalachia and north-eastern Brazil. Even the name is thematic (Brazilian slang for a ‘country bumpkin’ or ‘hillbilly’ in the Appalachian context). Guitarist Clay Ross, a South Carolina native took the first exploratory steps toward the realization of Matuto back in 2002, when his pursuit of a jazz career in New York veered south and landed him in Recife, the heartland of Brazilian forró, choco and maracatu. Back in New York the rhythmic underpinnings of Brazil’s north and the folk songs of the American south began to gel around Ross, as did a collective of  sought-after musicians, including accordionist Rob Curto, a NYC emissary of forró, chorinho, samba and frevo, as well as a student of bebop, swing, funk rock and blues. Matuto grew around the pair and an album was recorded, a Fulbright Grant was awarded, which afforded more time in Recife and the sophomore disc The Devil & The Diamond is the glorious result. The record is a seamless melding of exuberant southern-fried accordion lines and chicken-pickin’ guitar, flourishes of fiddle and the polyrhythmic pulse of Brazilian percussion; from the big alfaia bass drum, the twang of the single-string berimbau, the clatter of the pandeiro tambourine and the chatter of the playful cuica friction drum. To offer visual perspective on this vivid musical pastiche, Matuto enlisted Tulsa illustrator, Ty Wilkins who’s delightful, blocky and ethnic images adorn the cover and sleeve of The Devil & The Diamond. Key tracks include the opening ‘Toca O Sino (Ring The Bell)’, ‘Chicken Teeth’, the near Celtic ‘Horse Eat Corn’ and Thousand To Three.