Pedrito Martinez and Alfredo Rodriguez at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola 1/12/17 (by Kazemde George)

PERSONNEL: Pedrito Martinez (percussion, vocals), Alfredo Rodriguez (keyboards, vocals)

SET LIST: The Invasion Parade (Rodriguez), El Guije (Martinez, Rodriguez), Yemaya (Yoruba Traditional), Quizas Quizas Quizas (Farrés), Untitled (Martinez, Rodriguez), Gitanerias (Lecuona)

HIGHLIGHTS:  A chant dedicated to the Yoruba goddess, “Yemaya,” brought Cuban culture and religion into focus and relevance within an American context. It is rare to hear ceremonial Yoruba songs from performed at a Jazz club, but Martinez and Rodriguez bridged the gap, exposing the shared roots of both the American and Cuban traditions.

Martinez and Rodriguez have yet to decide on a label for their collaborations, but what they create exists on the vanguard of music today. They seamlessly combine styles that span the scope of Cuban music, including Rumba, Son, Bata, Timba, and Merengue, with American sounds stemming from Neo-Soul, Modern Jazz, and Hip-Hop. On command, the pair can swiftly transport the audience to a cabaret in 1950s Havana, a boisterous Rumba on a Cuban street corner, a thumping club in NYC, or a sacred Yoruba ceremony.

Throughout the set Rodriguez hammered out chords and melodies with percussive accuracy. For “Quizas Quizas Quizas,” he delivered a sensitive exploration of the song’s gorgeous melodic and harmonic cadences. At other moments he utilized a mic and keyboard, occasionally laying down a lush bed of vocoder harmony in support of Martinez’s lead vocals.

The percussion arsenal included four congas, snare drum, and seated cajón/ kick-drum.  Martinez could mark the time with a woodblock pedal at his right foot and a hi-hat with his left. A pair of slash cymbals and a set of chimes came in handy for contemplative moments; three Batá drums set up to the side were for conjuring Yoruba. Martinez flawlessly recombined sounds and rhythms from Guaguancó to backbeat.

Separately and together, Rodriguez and Martinez are distinctly personal yet deeply rooted in authentic traditions.

— by Kazemde George