Edy Martínez, the Music Architect Behind the Piano

Latin Percussion Ensemble Project: Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez, Andy Gonzalez, and Alfredo de la Fé. Seated: Tito Puente and Edy Martínez. Photo by Martin Cohen.
Latin Percussion Ensemble Project: Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez, Andy Gonzalez, and Alfredo de la Fé. Seated: Tito Puente and Edy Martínez. Photo by Martin Cohen.

The Conexión Latina of the 80’s

The following years were full of more albums and unforgettable concerts. Edy was the arranger of “Libre Increíble” for Many Oquendo and “Into the 80’s” for Típica 73. He never stopped playing with Barbieri, and two more albums were produced with the Argentinean saxophonist, “Para los amigos” and “Apasionado” in 1983.

Among scores, arrangements, rehearsals and shows, Edy made his headquarters wherever anything in terms of music could happen. There was one such place called El Corso, where Latin stars like Machito, Johnny Pacheco and Orquesta Broadway played. In El Corso Edy was part of the in-house band conducted by the vibraphonist Louie Ramírez. It was also here that Mr. Martínez met the elite of salsa and Latin jazz including Arsenio Rodríguez.

Edy got a contract to play in some concerts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While there he met up with Wito Rodríguez, the singer of Conexión Latina, who wanted him to be involved in that project lead by trombone player Rudi Fuesers. One week later Edy was on his way to Munich, Germany to work as a pianist and arranger. From the beginning the orchestra was formed of artists from different Latin American countries which ultimately gave the band a unique sound. In 1984 their debut album, “Calorcito”, was a wonderful display of energy and swing. An example of Mr. Martínez’s contribution in terms of playing can be noted in the song “Latin Groove” a delight with the powerful and soul stirring sound of the piano.

While in Germany, Edy received a call from Ray Mantilla to play in Paris. He fell in love with the French capital and after his concerts with Mr. Mantilla, he lived in Paris for three years. Two trombones, two trumpets and a full percussion set were enough to have his band playing with American musicians who were also serving in the military service. These musicians had asked for military permission so that they could perform with the band. Edy never wanted to leave Paris, but destiny made him do it.

Edy’s piano playing talent had surpassed borders and countries. In 1989 Edy was invited to be part of “Pianos Latinos” a huge concert where some of the most prestigious pianists would play together. This show brought together Michel Camilo, Ricky González, and Amuni Nacer, under the direction of Eddie Palmieri.

Edy Martínez rehearsing with Eddie Palmieri. New York, 1989.
Edy Martínez rehearsing with Eddie Palmieri. New York, 1989.

A Privilege to Go Back Home

In the decade of the 90’s Edy worked as a pianist and arranger with Corina Bartra, Raulín, Many Oquendo, Cecilia Zaid and Ray Mantilla. He met Tito Puente again to work together, but this time as a composer and arranger in his album “Royal T”. “Encuentro” was the song that he wrote for Puente, a classical bolero.

There is a Colombian saying that says “La tierra hala” (you are homesick) and that was what Edy felt all over again. In 1993, Martínez went to Colombia to start his own band and create a Latin jazz musical album. In those days even thinking about a Latin jazz project was crazy but he found people who wanted to sponsor his initiative so he decided to do it. This project took almost two years to complete. “Privilegio” was the decided name of his album, Edy played the role of composer, arranger, pianist and producer. He had gathered a dynamic group of musicians including Tico Arnedo, Orlando Barreda, Luis Díaz, Edilberto Liévano, Joaquín Cuervo, Diego Valdés, Ernesto Simpson, Samuel Torres, Jorge Naranjo, and José Vásquez. Mr. Martínez had been the architect of many musicians for more than 30 years and now it was time for him to be the guy who appeared on the cover of the album. The only just thing was to have the maestro Edy as the absolute protagonist of his own talent. The result of this long musical preparation was an exquisite work full of descarga, lyric and powerful lines where each instrument played a profound role giving the listener a pure, harmonic and unique Latin sound. Some of these musical arrangements include, “Iron Jungle” and “Tower of Inspiration”.

Even living in Colombia, there was a constant flow of people who sought his talent as an arranger. In 1995 the American alto saxophonist, David Sanborn, asked Edy to be part of his arrangement on his album “Pearls”. Edy traveled a lot and worked with Johnny Mandell (Sanborn’s arranger), one of the legends of arrangements in the United States, who had worked for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Count Bassie, and Nat King Cole.

By the end of the 90’s Mr. Martínez recounted all that he had accomplished during his time in Colombia and the landscape of it all, was amazing. He had gotten married; his two sons were born, produced his own album and taught in prestigious universities. His intentions were to stay in Colombia but his passion and curiosity for music everywhere were stirring and once again he left his homeland. In 1998 Lucas Van Merwijk called Edy from Holland to express the emotions that both albums “Privilegio” and “Pearls” had made him feel. He packed his bags and went to Holland where he prepared ten arrangements and played them on the album “More and More”, a project headed by Mr. Merwijk and the Cubop City Big Band.

Oscar Montagut
Oscar Montagut
Oscar graduated in journalism and education in Colombia, and completed a postgraduate program in Creative Writing in Canada. He works as an English teacher, translator and freelance writer in Bogotá. Oscar is a music collector, explorer and promoter of World Music and Jazz.

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  1. Didn’t Edy Martinez have a daughter called Estellita with a lady called Estella? I remember babysitting that little girl when they lived in the Bronx off The Grand Concourse. Crazy times. I also met Artie Webb at their apartment.

  2. Hi Oscar

    Great piece!

    My name is Gary Peters, author of the Philosophy of Improvisation (Chicago University Press, 2009) and just finishing another book for Chicago U.P. on improvisation. It contains a strange ‘memoir’ of the San Sebastian Jazz festival 1980 where Edy played with Gato. I was playing too in another band. I wondered if you had a contact email for Edy? I need to ask him a couple of questions relating to that night.


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