Ranch & Coast
Darlene Davies and Paul Marshall
June 28, 2021
La Jolla Music Society brings concertgoers to their feet at a recent vibrant and festive performance
Recently, the courtyard of The Conrad came to vibrant life when the Pedrito Martinez Group began playing its high energy Afro-Cuban music. In fact, the energy level dramatically rose with just the appearance of this band, a terrific quintet, led by Martinez. Marked by shout-outs and chants, the musical selections burst with varieties of rhythmic instruments, causing a number of audience members who couldn’t contain themselves to rise from their seats and dance on the sidelines. Many in the audience seemed familiar with the Cuban sounds and at least one called out that she was from Cuba. There was definitely a high level of familiarity with the Cuban culture as happiness and comfort seized the moment.
Martinez sat front and center of the ensemble, shouting and chanting as he played an array of conga drums. The set selection allowed one number to flow into the next, so comfortable were the format and style. The instrumentation included conga drums, keyboard, bass, trombone, timbales, and an assortment of rhythmic shakers and scratchers. Toward the end of the set, the five very talented musicians got up and switched instruments to show their versatility. The set began with “Afina el arroz,” followed seamlessly by “Tuve una revelacion,” “If you don’t know how to dance,” “Yo si quiero,” and concluding with a boisterous “Blasfemador.” Claps and thumps were part of the band’s power surge to a bomba high. The closing was punctuated with a couple band members leaping off the stage encouraging audience members to join a conga line. The set ran one hour, from 5 to 6pm, with no intermission or encore. A second performance was scheduled for the same evening at 8pm. CDs were available for purchase following the close of the set.
Pedrito Martinez, born in Havana, Cuba and now a New Yorker, has contributed to over 100 records, having formerly performed with the Afro-Cuban/Afro Beat band Yerba Buena. He has recorded or performed with Issac Delgado, Sting, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Elton John, and James Taylor, and has opened for the Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles. The Pedrito Martinez Group has played at the Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center, The Newport Jazz Festival, and a TED Conference, among many other venues. The Afro-Cuban music and its beat act as a force that transports listeners to another place and time, filling them with delight. If every day could be so full of joy!