Pedrito Martinez and The World's Music at Jazzfest
By Jorge L. Fuentes
Click aqui para español- >Pedrito Martínez y la música mundial de Jazzfest
Cuban percussionist and vocalist Pedrito Martinez is returning to New Orleans this April for his fourth appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and acknowledges how significant it is to appear at an event that attracts thousands of people each year.
“You get exposure to an audience that maybe doesn’t know you yet and serves as a springboard to meet other musicians. A lot of promoters show up, more work comes your way, you sell a lot of CD’s, it’s always good,” he says.
Born in Havana, Pedrito has an incredible musical career: he was a founding member of the afrobeat band Yerba Buena and began his own band in 2005. His first album was nominated for a Grammy award, and he’s still performing tours all over the world. His show at the 2017 Jazz Fest was one of the most anticipated sets that year, and now he’s back as part of his tour with pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, in support of their record Dualogue.
The record includes originals and standards, and was produced by Quincy Jones, which he calls “a dream come true. Everything was flowing with great energy,” he said. “Also, Alfredo is an impeccable human being, he’s wholesome and noble. We started recognizing emotions and sharing our passion and respect for the music we were making,” he says.
“Afro-Cuban music is at the backbone of this record,” says Pedrito, “and it was a learning experience for me. We are musicians of the world. New Orleans is definitely the city that is closest in culture to the music of Cuba, that’s a proven fact. It reminds me a lot of Havana and Matanzas (another city in Cuba), and two of the best drummers I know, Herlin Riley and Shannon Powell, are from here,” he says.
He’s going to be in good company in this year’s festival - known to all as just Jazz Fest - which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Artists such as The Rolling Stones*, Herbie Hancock, Santana, Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, and Taj Mahal were booked to be part of the lineup, which also includes Katy Perry, Pitbull, Alanis Morissette, J Balvin, and many more. The music variety is really world-class, and the audience can enjoy different genres, not just jazz. You can hear rock, blues, African bands, as well as country, gospel, and ra.
The festival usually runs for seven days, always the last weekend of April and the first weekend in May, but an eighth day is being added this year to commemorate its anniversary. Ever since 1972, barely two years into its existence, the festival moved to the Fair Grounds Race Course in the Gentilly neighborhood, where it has taken place since then, bringing a sense of celebration to all neighbors and businesses in the area.
As far as Latin music is concerned, there are 20 local and international acts that will be performing during the eight days of this immense cultural and musical festivity. One of those acts in particular, Julio & Cesar, has performed almost without fail every year since they started. “I’m not sure if they began playing around 1972 or thereabouts,” says Andrew Herrera, Cesar’s son and the band’s bass player. “I started playing with them around 2001,” he remembers. “We just love it every time they call us, and they call us every year,” he says, “but I remember that I’ve been going since I was a kid.”
Last year’s attendance is estimated at 450 thousand people, and the festival attracts many more people to the city. Local radio station, WWOZ 90.7 FM, broadcasts live from the site every day, bringing the sounds and the music of the festival to all who stream it online.
Pedrito probably speaks for a lot of the artists that perform at Jazz Fest when he says, “This is a great opportunity, it’s one of the most important festivals in the world.”
*The Rolling Stones cancelled due to Mick Jagger undergoing heart surgery. They were subsequently replaced by Fleetwood Mac which also cancelled due to illness. The band Widespread Panic will headline the festival on the second Thursday.
Photo credit Danielle Moire, Richard Holstein