It’s generally a reliable sign that something exceptional is going on when the practitioner of a somewhat non-mainstream style of music (singing in Spanish to boot) begins to attract international attention with a weekly gig at a modest-sized New York City restaurant.

Such is the case with the extraordinary Pedrito Martinez Group, whose legendary residency at Manhattan’s Guantanamera Restaurant has earned the group and its leader wide-eyed praise from titans of rock, jazz, and Latin music alike. Martinez can count among his fans Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Rubén Blades, Steve Winwood, Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Steve Gadd, Paquito D’Rivera, and Joe Lovano, to name but a few. Wynton Marsalis himself puts it simply: “Pedrito is a genius.”

Since relocating to New York in 2000, the Cuban-born Martinez has extended and refined his consummate mastery of a wide variety of popular Latin music forms anchored with a deep mastery of Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms. His exceptionally strong tenor voice and dizzying skills on the congas are stretched by an infectious energy and unmistakable joy in the making of music, and he has found the perfect vehicle for his talents with his amazing quartet, which includes Álvaro Benavides providing elastic counterpoint and locked-in groove on electric bass, Jhair Sala (who has played with Martinez since the age of 10) on vocals and percussion, and the band’s newest member, the exceptional pianist Edgar Pantoja-Aleman. The band creates a very big sound, able to seemingly ratchet up to the intensity and drive of a full salsa orchestra, and yet still turn on a dime with the improvisatory flexibility of a small jazz group.




Dos y Mas

October 22nd, 2012

Earshot Jazz presented Dos y Mas at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium last night, Wow. What a great show. Elio Villafranca and Arturo Stable, two Cuban-born maestros of jazz and world music, unveiled Dos y Mas, their debut recording of their exquisite new piano and percussion collaboration, on Motéma Music, January 2012.
Villafranca and Stable have developed loyal followings both as leaders and for their work with many of the world’s top musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Johnny Pacheco, John Faddis, Billy Harper, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke and Paquito d’Rivera.

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Both artists are avid and creative educators who are as in demand as lecturers at universities as they are as performers at festivals, clubs and cultural centers. Villafranca is a resident professor at Temple University, while Stable teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he designed their unique hand percussion major of study.

Stable says, “Working with Elio is a very rewarding experience. He is always open to new ideas and to taking risks, musically speaking. I love that, because it means the music can always take a new direction. We share similar backgrounds culturally and musically, so the connection between us was there since the beginning. I always feel I learn something new when we perform together.”

Villafranca agrees, “Arturo’s musicality and ability to play many different hand drum instruments with facility, elevated my playing and my interpretation of his playing. Together we have arrived a new musical dimension.”

– DB

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.