Pedrito Martinez: Force of Nature

Repeating Islands


This column by Larry Blumenfeld on jazz and other sounds appeared in

Those who attend Afro-Cuban ceremonies in Brooklyn and the Bronx, or in Union City, New Jersey, experience the power and talent of Pedrito Martinez in a religious setting—“hands like thunder, and a voice like lightning,” as saxophonist Jane Bunnett described it for a Wall Street Journal piece on Martinez that I wrote last year. (She met him at such a ceremony in his native Cuba, before he left to join her in Canada; by 2000, he had won the Thelonious Monk jazz competition and moved to Union City.)

As a percussionist and a singer (as a rumbero) Martinez does seem a force of nature, so powerful is his effect to transform places and moments. Many have been moved by Martinez on midweek nights, when his quartet is in residency at the Midtown Manhattan restaurant Guantanamera. Between the…

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