Music News
3:41 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Pedrito Martinez Group Covers Pop And Jazz And Avoids Kitsch

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 1:24 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you stop by the Cuban restaurant Guantanamera in midtown Manhattan on a weeknight you're apt to hear one of the great Cuban bands of our time. The Pedrito Martinez Group is a four-piece powerhouse. Since they formed in 2007, they've earned a fanatical following in Latin music circles.

The group's self-titled debut CD is just out and Banning Eyre has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Pedrito Martinez is a giant of hand percussion. His masterful, elegant, and spiritual engagement with the instruments he plays lies at the heart of this one-of-a-kind quartet's sound. But there's more.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

PEDRITO MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Martinez sings as well as he plays. And his Cuban pianist/vocalist, Venezuelan bass man, and Peruvian percussionist all deliver the same brand of virtuosity and passion. These four know they are writing a new chapter in Cuban music history, and their shared excitement is irresistible.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: Ariacne Trujillo is a monster of Latin jazz and timba piano, trained at ISA conservatory in Havana. She's also a great singer, comfortable with all sorts of genres. It's easy to see why another genre buster, Winton Marsalis, became a fan of this group, and wound up contributing a New Orleans tinged solo to the CD.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: The Pedrito Martinez Group album includes some surprising covers, like "I'll Be There," popularized by the Jackson 5. And there's blues legend Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues."

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

ARIACNE TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: A Latin band doing jazz and pop covers could easily become kitsch, but not here. Pedrito Martinez's vision is ravenously inclusive. And proof that a Cuban immigrant to America can absorb anything he likes and still not lose his roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org. He reviewed The Pedrito Martinez Group.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.