The Kennedy Center

Pedrito Martinez


The Pedrito Martinez Group has its roots planted firmly in the Afro-Cuban Rumba tradition and in the bata rhythms and vocal chants of the music of Yoruba and Santeria. Ben Ratliff summed it up aptly for the New York Times calling it, “complex, blenderized Africa-to-the-New-World funk.”

Since its formation in the current lineup in 2008, the Pedrito Martinez group has developed into an extraordinarily tight and creative unit with a home base gig in Midtown Manhattan at Guantanamera. They have built a fan base that includes Steve Gadd, Ravi Coltrane, Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton, John Scofield, Roger Waters, Derek Trucks, Herlin Riley, and Will Lee.

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 playing with such Cuban legends as Tata Güines, Muñequitos de Matanzas. In 1998 he was brought to Canada by 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-Latin Hand Drumming for the first time ever; he entered and won first place.

Martinez was a member of the highly successful, Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat band, Yerba Buena with which he recorded two albums and toured the world opening for bands including the Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. In addition, he has also lent his talents to over one hundred records, and collaborated with artist such as Paquito D’Rivera, Issac Delgado, Eliane Elias, Stefon Harris, Steve Turre, Eddie Palmieri, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Conrad Herwig, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bill Summers and Los Hombres Calientes, Arturo Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdés, Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, and Sting, (for his rainforest benefit, with Elton John and Bruce Springsteen). He was also featured in the documentary film on Cuban music, Calle 54 and his singing and percussion playing were featured in the 2011, Academy Award-nominated, Chico and Rita.

The Pedrito Martinez Group has self-released two live albums. An album by Pedrito Martinez,*Rumba de la Isla*, featuring the music of the flamenco great, *Camarón de la Isla* was released on Calle54/Sony in March of 2013.

Their first studio album, The Pedrito Martinez Group, was released, October 8, 2013, on Motema Music. The album was produced by Steve Gadd and Pedrito Martinez and features special guests, Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Steve Gadd, Marc Quinones and Gary Schreiner.

The Pedrito Martinez Group has appeared at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Apollo Theater, The Newport Jazz Festival, globalFest, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, TED Conference andTEDx, The Montreal Jazz Festival, The Red Sea Festival, Montreux Jazz Fest, The Sydney Festival, Bonnaroo, Yoshi’s/San Francisco, The Umbria Jazz Festivals, Saratoga Jazz Festival, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival/San Francisco, Festival Internationale, Playboy Jazz Festival, SF Jazz, The Barbican, The Jazz Standard and Joe’s Pub NYC.

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, Cuba, and at the age of 11, 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 early on. From 1994-2008, Edgar 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. Edgar joined The Pedrito Martinez Group in November of 2014.

A scholarship from Berklee College of Music brought bassist Álvaro Benavides to the United States 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 bomba climax with wicked thumps, slaps and slides that congeal and combust with Pedrito’s cajón to produce as powerful and uplifting a rhythmic surge as the largest and most aggressive Cuban bands.

Born in Perú and raised in New York, Jhair Sala spent his formative years studying intensively with Pedrito Martínez having met Pedrito when he was ten 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 Pedrito. Jhair’s touch, timing, and feel, are truly remarkable and with literally thousands of hours of studying, performing and jamming together, the two drummers play as one.

Watch Past Performances

Video 9/10/2015: Finding A Line: The Pedrito Martinez Group

In a performance shining a spotlight on the sports and diplomacy work by Finding A Line partners Cuba Skate, the Pedrito Martinez Group shows off its roots planted firmly in the Afro-Cuban Rumba tradition and in the bata rhythms and vocal chants of the music of Yoruba and Santeria. Part of Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media

Pedrito Martinez