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From New York Via Cuba: The Pedrito Martinez Group

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The Pedrito Martinez Group
Pedrito Martinez is one of the most recognizable percussionists in New York today and he is also one of the percussionists most likely to be chosen to play on another musician’s recording. Fortunately he has had the time to make his own recordings. This one is simply entitled The Pedrito Martinez Group and includes some of the more talented musicians from Latin America. That Mr. Martinez is one of the most talented young rumbero and conguero to come out of Cuba in recent memory goes without saying, but what should not be missed is that he is also one of the boldest musicians, who are unafraid of trying new things. And because of this Mr. Martinez also attracts some of the finest players in any idiom. On this occasion he invited the great Wynton Marsalis to play on a really fine chart “Lengua De Obbara,” a guaguancó on which Mr. Marsalis plays with classic fire and seems to capture the Afri-Cuban rollicking rhythm like a true native Cuban trumpeter. Other luminaries that Mr. Martinez attracted for this date are guitarist John Scofield and drummer Steve Gadd. But this is not about the luminous guest stars; it is more about the Pedrito Martinez group and about its iconic leader more than anything else.

Pedrito Martinez was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his musical career at the age of 11, performing as vocalist and percussionist with such Cuban legends as Tata Güines and Los Munequitos de Matanzas. He came to Canada in 1998 with Jane Bunnett to tour with her group, Spirits of Havana. His decision to remain in North America to pursue his career proved to be an auspicious one when, two years later, the annual Thelonious Monk Institute Competition showcased Afro-Cuban Hand Drumming for the first time ever. Mr. Martinez entered and won first place. His proverbial musical star has been on the ascent ever since. On this album, Mr. Martinez proves that he is a gifted vocalist as well as being a fine drummer. His vocals are slanted, rich in irony and vocal gymnastics. Moreover, he is not simply a Spanish-language vocalist; his vocals, which he shares with the wonderfully gifted pianist and singer, Ariacne Trujillo are bright and powerful and full of humour, and quite beautiful. His “Travelling Riverside Blues” is a fine blues—made all the finer by John Scofield’s exquisite solo and Steve Gadd’s drumming throughout. But the real revelation is the English and Spanish vocals that also turn this blues into an energetic celebration. Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There” is another superb re-imagination, this one in the Afri-Cuban rhythmic idiom.

The Pedrito Martinez Group’s pianist Ariacne Trujillo is a true revelation as well. This conservatoire-trained musician is the one who is the glue that virtually holds the ensemble together. Her rhythmic attack is bold and inventive and she roars on the keys of her instrument, laying down the melodic lines for the exciting songs and energises the entire album with her wonderful vocals as well. Holding down the drum-line is another talented player, Jhair Sala, who also keeps things going when Mr. Martinez is on a vocal sojourn. Bassist, Alvaro Benavides also acquits himself with honours as he lines up with the two percussionists to keep the Afri-Cuban fire burning. With this more eclectic album, Pedrito Martinez appears to be going places he probably never thought he would be going and that is a welcome sign for this ever-talented musician.

Track List: Conciencia; Lengua De Obbara; Travelling Riverside Blues; La Luna; Memorias; La Habana; I’ll Be There; Música; Después De Todo; Los Santos.

Personnel: Pedrito Martinez: percussion, lead vocals; Ariacne Trujillo: piano, lead vocals; Alvaro Benavides: electric bass; background vocals; Jhair Sala: percussion, background vocals; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet (2); John Scofield: guitar (3); Steve Gadd: drums (3); Gary Schreiner: chromatic harmonica (3); Marc Quiñones: timbales (4); Matt Dillon: spoken word (7).

Label: Motéma Music | Release date: October 2013

Website: pedritomartinezmusic.com | Buy music on: amazon

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About Pedrito Martinez

Pedro Pablo “Pedrito” Martinez was born in Havana, Cuba, Sept 12, 1973. He began his musical career at the age of 11, performing as vocalist and percussionist with such Cuban legends as Tata Guines and Los Munequitos de Matanzas. He was brought to Canada in 1998, by bandleader, Jane Bunnett, and decided to remain in North America to pursue his career. Two years later he took first place in the annual Thelonious Monk Institute Competition for Afro-Latin Hand Drumming. Read more…

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.

By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.

Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.

From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.

Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.

It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.

Deo gratis…

Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz

Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums [9]

Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues

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