Both Alfredo Rodríguez and Pedrito Martinez are musicians known for great virtuosity on their respective instruments – Mr Rodríguez on the piano and Mr Martinez as a tumbadora and bàtá player from the Lucumí tradition, which also meant that he has considerable prowess in the realm of chants and vocals. For them to showcase this aspect of their musicianship is never a tall order.
But they have flipped the script on Duologue and created music that is remarkably and beautifully simple. Even more remarkably this is music that seems to transcend stylistic borders and although Mr Martinez’s percussion is an inescapable presence, the music has an almost unreal universal appeal.
The reason for this appears to be that this music features such outstanding melodic power that stylistic boundaries seem to melt away leaving just pure and beautiful songfulness. Only Mr Martinez’s voice that sometimes evokes his spiritual chants (as in “Yo Volveré”) reminds you that the musicians come from the Afro-Cuban tradition.
Almost everywhere else you would be hard-pressed to identify this music as having some Cuban form or the other – even when the musicians transform “Thriller”, (Rod Temperton’s song immortalised by Michael Jackson) into a breathtaking timba you can’t help but feel the universality of the music played.
Honouring the tradition is, of course, de rigueur and the musicians do so with a masterful version of the iconic punto guajiro music of Celina González and Reutilio Domínguez who artfully melded their music with the Afro-Cuban dance forms. The song “El Punto Cubano” is spectacularly re-imagined by Mr Rodríguez with Mr Martinez, who wails his way lyrically through the evocative and poetic imagery of the song.
Even when it comes time for Mr Martinez to showcase his skills on the bàtá, this is so skillfully done that while the drums retain their tone-textures throughout, the musicality with which they are played is supreme and overarching. Mr Rodríguez, for his part plays with nuanced emotion. It is rare that two artists with such strong musical personalities can combine to make music echoing with powerful lyricism and so completely bereft of ego.
Track list – 01: Africa; 02: Estamos Llegando; 03: Thriller; 04: Cosas del Amor; 05: Duologue; 06: El Punto Cubano; 07: Flor; 08: Jardín Soñador; 09: Super Mario Bros 3; 10: Mariposa; 11: Yo Volveré
Personnel – Alfredo Rodríguez: piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards and vocals; Pedrito Martinez: all percussion and vocals
Released – 2019
Label – Mack Avenue (MAC1145)
Runtime – 38:25