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Pedrito Martinez Group Lights Up Afternoon Jazz with an Explosion of Afro-Cuban Rhythm

When Pedrito Martínez extended his hand for an introductory shake, I noticed how similar its texture is to the skin of a conga — as if his hands have literally become one with his instrument.

He introduced himself as “Pedro,” and seemed very unassuming at first meeting. But once he finished setting up his drums and the other members of his band arrived for soundcheck, a complete metamorphosis ensued. Sheer joy and magnetic energy filled the WBGO studio as the Pedrito Martínez Group transformed the space into a Havana jazz café. I couldn’t help but move in my seat as I prepared for my very first studio session as the host of Afternoon Jazz.

Thankfully, the organic Afro-Cuban rhythms instantly caused my nervousness to fall away. Martínez is hardly a stranger to WBGO’s performance studio, but this occasion was special — an acknowledgment of Pedrito’s 20th anniversary as a New Yorker.

He stopped by to give a taste of the celebration in store at the 92nd Street Y this Friday night. The concert will feature an opening set of Yoruban ceremonial music — three batá drummers, three vocalists — followed by a set of electrifying timba music by Pedrito’s group, with special guests on trumpet and trombone. If our studio session is any indication, the concert promises to provide nothing less than a cathartic experience.

Here is the band performing "La Luna" in our studio.

Band: Pedrito Martínez and Jhair Sala, percussion and vocals; Ahmed Alum Vega, piano and vocals; Sebastian Natal, bass and vocals.

Videography: Chris Tobin

Audio Mix and Video Edit: Corey Goldberg

Keanna Faircloth is a Washington, DC native and comes to WBGO getting her start on-air at WPFW 89.3 FM in 2003, most recently as the host of Late Night Jazz: The Continuum Experience. She is a graduate of Howard University having majored in Music History with a minor in Classical Piano. Keanna has written for NPR Music, and worked for Radio One as an on-air personality, producer and voice-over talent. She is also the creator and host of Artimacy Podcast, where she has interviewed artists like Wynton Marsalis, Matthew Whitaker, Jonathan Butler, and Dionne Warwick. As a result, she was recognized by Radio Ink Magazine as a 2019 African American leader in radio.