sun 15/09/2019

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez, Ronnie Scott's review - Cuban wizards of piano and percussion | reviews, news & interviews

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez, Ronnie Scott's review - Cuban wizards of piano and percussion

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez, Ronnie Scott's review - Cuban wizards of piano and percussion

Protean talents godfathered by Quincy Jones

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito MartinezAnna Webber / Mack Avenue

Percussionist Pedrito Martinez is one of those musicians who forces you to re-think what instruments are capable of – while making you wonder if there is actually anything he can’t do. He plays congas, batá drums and bongos with breathtaking facility and flow. He sings everything from Yoruba chants to “Quizás”. He dances. And he can turn a side drum and a hi-hat (no sticks, all played with hand/foot) plus cajon drum as if by magic into a rock drum kit.

Last night at Ronnie Scott’s was the first show of a duo tour with a fellow Cuba-born US-based musician, pianist Alberto Rodriguez, touring the material of Duologue, an album produced by Quincy Jones.

On congas or on batá Martinez produces everything from the most delicate finger-tip pit-a-pat to an impossibly fast onslaught. But what impresses above all is the rhythmic versatility, from a simple rock beat to the complex asymmetric rhythms of “Duologue” and all different kinds of son and rumba claves in a song like “El Punto Cubano”. And there is a certain charisma and likeability about him, too.

As a pianist, Rodriguez has a wonderful melodic touch for the more romantic side, in numbers like “La Cosa Amor”, but can also produce incredible fingerspeed and fire-power as required.

In other words, there is a clear affinity between pianist and percussionist, and that comes to the fore particularly in the song "Yo Volveré" (I’ll be back), which describes a sense they both have that, as Rodriguez has explained, “we have both been physically far away from Cuba for several years, but spiritually we have been in Cuba every day.”

Quincy Jones has had a clear shaping influence and a hand in the project as producer. It was he who had come up with the idea that the duo should do a rumbero-disguised version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. And I have to admit that my heart sank when one of the first sounds in their show was Rodriguez singing into a vocoder à la Jacob Collier, prompting the question as to whether there might come a point even with a genius like Quincy Jones that the magic dust he sprinkles onto a project might become formulaic.

But there is no keeping down protean talents like these two. They have both travelled the journey from new kids on the block to artists in their prime. They clearly enjoy each other’s company and have further to travel together. The standing ovations they received from a full house at Ronnie Scott’s last night were definitely the least surprising moments of the evening.

@sebscotney

On congas or on batá Martinez produces everything from the most delicate finger-tip pit-a-pat to an impossibly fast onslaught.

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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