Pedro Pablo "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 Yoruba Andabo.
Since settling in New York City in the fall of 1998, Martinez has recorded and/or
performed with Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D'Rivera, Chucho
Valdés, Bruce Springsteen, James Tyalor, Issac Delgado, and Sting. In addition, he has
contributed his talents to more than 100 albums.
A consummate master of Afro-Cuban folkloric music, Martinez does not just play the
obligatory handful of standard batá rhythms--he plays the monumentally complex "Oru seco"
on each drum or on all three at once. He is also the world's first-call
rumbero--playing, singing, and dancing with dozens of groups and contributing to
or appearing in several films, including Calle 54 and Chico and
Equally at home in popular music, Martinez's perfectly intoned tenor voice seamlessly
combines pop and folkloric influences. His infectious energy, humor, charisma, and dance
moves make him a formidable front man and percussionist.
Martinez was a founding member of the highly successful Afro-Cuban / Afro-beat band
Yerba Buena, with which he recorded two albums and toured the world.
His career as a leader began in 2005 with the formation of the The Pedrito Martinez Group.
The group's Grammy-nominated, self-titled first studio album was released in 2013 and
featured special guests Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, and Steve Gadd. Tracks for the
group's new album, Havana Dreams, were recorded in Cuba last October; it is
scheduled for release this spring on Motema Music.
Honors that Martinez has received include first place at the Thelonious Monk International
Afro-Latin Jazz Hand Drum Competition (2000), the Sphinx Medal of Excellence (2014),
Modern Drummer's Readers Poll's Percussionist of the Year (2014), being named one
of DownBeat magazine's "80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today" (2014), and the
Jazz Journalists Association's Percussionist of the Year (2014 and 2015).
Pianist, trumpeter, arranger, and composer Edgar Pantoja-Aleman has devoted
his life to an intense passion for the piano. He was born in Santiago de Cuba. At the age
of 11, he began studying classical music, motivated by his mother, who discovered in him
innate musical interests, especially in Afro-Cuban rhythms. The trumpet was his first
instrument and the beginning of a long journey, taking up the piano soon after. From
1994-2008, Pantoja-Aleman worked as a teacher in Havana and in Spain, instructing
piano, brass, harmony, and percussion. He has lived in New York City since 2008, where he
has performed with David Murray, Pedrito Martinez, and many others.
A scholarship from the Berklee College of Music brought bassist Álvaro Benavides to the US
from his native Venezuela. He's a brilliant soloist with unshakeable timing that allows him
to shoulder the entire groove when the rest of the musicians drop out, or to power the band
to a devastating climax with wicked thumps, slaps, and slides that congeal and combust.
Along with Pedrito Martinez's cajón, the two produce powerful and uplifting rhythmic surges
that rival the largest and most aggressive Cuban bands.
Born in Peru and raised in New York, Jhair Sala spent his formative years studying
intensively with Pedrito Martinez, whom he met when he was only 10 years old. He's now in
high demand as a session musician and bandleader in his own right, but there's an uncanny
magic when he plays with Martinez. Sala's touch, timing, and feel, are truly remarkable.
With literally thousands of hours of studying, performing, and jamming together, Sala and
Martinez seemingly perform as one.