Two of Cuba’s Most Exciting and Innovative Artists
Join Forces as Alfredo Rodriguez & Pedrito Martinez
Release First Duo Album, Duologue
Available February 1 on Mack Avenue Records –
Album Features Wide-Ranging Original
Compositions, Cuban Classics, and Surprising Covers,
Produced by the Iconic Quincy Jones
Painted in the broadest of strokes, the stories of Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez may seem similar: both started life in Havana, discovered their gifts and passions for music and headed to the States, where they melded the music of their homeland with a wide variety of influences, each in his own deeply personal way.
Zoom in a little, though, and the two paths differ considerably. Rodriguez was born into a musical family, his father a popular singer and TV host. A child prodigy, he studied classical piano at the prestigious Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán and Instituto Superior de Arte while playing popular music in his father’s orchestra by night. While performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006 he was discovered by his future mentor and producer, the legendary Quincy Jones.
Martinez, on the other hand, honed his craft on the streets of Havana, learning the deeply-rooted percussion and vocal style of Afro-Cuban folkloric and religious music. Nearly a decade Rodriguez’s senior, the master percussionist and vocalist arrived in the U.S. in 1998, was soon awarded First Place at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Afro-Latin Hand Drum Competition, and appeared in the documentary film, Calle 54. He then co-founded a Latin fusion group, Yerba Buena, with which he toured extensively and recorded several successful albums. Pedrito has performed or recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Chucho Valdés, and James Taylor. He has been leader of his own quartet since 2005 with a GRAMMY® Award-nominated album released in 2013 on Motéma Music.
As a result of their differences, Rodriguez and Martinez share a natural chemistry that makes for a galvanizing musical experience when they come together. Their first duo outing, Duologue (due out February 1, 2019 and available for pre-order now via Mack Avenue Records), finds the pair exploring a range of moods and influences, from Cuban classics to collaborative original compositions to a number of unexpected favorites.
Despite their shared Cuban roots, Rodriguez and Martinez didn’t cross paths until both had moved to the States. The pianist caught a set by the always-thrilling Pedrito Martinez Group at a jazz festival and instantly knew he wanted to work with the percussionist. “There are times when you feel something and know that you want to collaborate with someone,” Rodriguez explains. “That was one of those occasions.”
The first opportunity for the two to team up came with the recording of Rodriguez’s second album for Mack Avenue, The Invasion Parade, on which Martinez’s stirring vocals and virtuosic percussion appear on two tracks. Busy schedules kept them on separate paths for the next several years, until they reconvened for a stint at New York City’s Jazz Standard and a short tour in early 2017, their first chance to test the waters as a duo.
“What makes this duo completely different is that I came from the folkloric side and Alfredo came from the classical side,” Martinez says. “You put those things together and you come out with an extraordinary and different sound. Alfredo has brilliant ideas when he’s composing and putting together melodies, and it was so easy to mix and absorb his ideas and vice versa. Each song has a different sound and history.”
Most of the original pieces on the album originated with Rodriguez, who would record rough demos on his phone, then send the files to Martinez to compose lyrics and rhythmic patterns. The tunes were further solidified in true collaboration between Rodriguez and Martinez during a weeklong rehearsal period in Los Angeles prior to recording, then polished by veteran producer Quincy Jones. The broad sweep of rhythmic frameworks Martinez brings to the original compositions reflects not only his Afro-Cuban roots but also the range of influences that have impacted him in NYC, whether it’s reggae, 1970s R&B, jazz or funk.
“Every artist on the planet would be lucky to work with Quincy,” Martinez enthuses. “Just having his name on any record is like a trampoline: you don’t go step by step, but you automatically jump five steps up.”
“Since the beginning, my collaboration with Pedrito has been very exciting,” Rodriguez concludes. “Even though we come from different backgrounds, the energy we share, the passion for what we do, and the respect we have for each other has been beautiful.” Adds Martinez, “It was an amazing experience and a pleasure to work with Alfredo because he’s a great human being. The way he plays and the way he composes are unique and amazing.”
Photo Credit: Anna Webber
Alfredo Rodriquez & Pedrito Martinez · Duologue
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: February 1, 2019