by Dan Bloom, producer
I love to invite outstanding musical acts into our performance studio and experience private concerts that I’ll eventually share with you, our wonderful audience. Sometimes the musicians are so excellent that the interim period, when I have to sit on such amazing content, is excruciating. Today’s program is one of those instances, and our guests, The Pedrito Martinez Group, ranks among my favorite musical shows that I’ve ever had the pleasure to produce.
Pedro Pablo Martinez was raised in the Cayo Hueso neighborhood of central Havana and after stints in boxing and judo, he picked up drumming and singing from musicians in his neighborhood, largely independent of formal training. This fact is truly stunning when you consider the quality of his play and the win he scored in 2000 at the first-ever Thelonious Monk Institute Afro-Latin Hand Drum Competition.
Martinez won this competition just two years after defecting to the United States while speaking very little English and leaving the only community he’d ever known back in Cuba. Martinez exemplifies the classic American immigrant success story, and now, his dedication to his art, his effort in learning a new language and his infectious positivity have paid off and his group’s reputation is spreading like wildfire. Such musicians as Steve Winwood, Quincy Jones and Paul Simon have made sure to check out the group’s regular gig at Manhattan’s Guantanamera restaurant, where this exceptional group including Ariacne Trujilo, Jahir Sala and Alvaro Benavides came together. If you happen to be in New York or near another of their tour dates, do yourself a favor and experience this beautiful music in person.