Pedrito Martinez Group Covers Pop And Jazz And Avoids Kitsch

The Pedrito Martinez Group has a following many can envy. Since their formation in 2007, they have excited Latin music circles with their blend of folklore and dance music, as well as jazz and international pop. Banning Eyre says the band members are writing a new chapter in Cuban music history, and their shared excitement on the debut album is irresistible.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you stop by the Cuban restaurant Guantanamera in midtown Manhattan on a weeknight you're apt to hear one of the great Cuban bands of our time. The Pedrito Martinez Group is a four-piece powerhouse. Since they formed in 2007, they've earned a fanatical following in Latin music circles.

The group's self-titled debut CD is just out and Banning Eyre has this review.

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BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Pedrito Martinez is a giant of hand percussion. His masterful, elegant, and spiritual engagement with the instruments he plays lies at the heart of this one-of-a-kind quartet's sound. But there's more.

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PEDRITO MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Martinez sings as well as he plays. And his Cuban pianist/vocalist, Venezuelan bass man, and Peruvian percussionist all deliver the same brand of virtuosity and passion. These four know they are writing a new chapter in Cuban music history, and their shared excitement is irresistible.

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EYRE: Ariacne Trujillo is a monster of Latin jazz and timba piano, trained at ISA conservatory in Havana. She's also a great singer, comfortable with all sorts of genres. It's easy to see why another genre buster, Winton Marsalis, became a fan of this group, and wound up contributing a New Orleans tinged solo to the CD.

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EYRE: The Pedrito Martinez Group album includes some surprising covers, like "I'll Be There," popularized by the Jackson 5. And there's blues legend Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues."

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MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

ARIACNE TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: A Latin band doing jazz and pop covers could easily become kitsch, but not here. Pedrito Martinez's vision is ravenously inclusive. And proof that a Cuban immigrant to America can absorb anything he likes and still not lose his roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org. He reviewed The Pedrito Martinez Group.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

MARTINEZ: (Singing in foreign language)

TRUJILLO: (Singing in foreign language)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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