It’s generally a reliable sign that something exceptional is going on when the practitioner of a somewhat non-mainstream style of music (singing in Spanish to boot) begins to attract international attention with a weekly gig at a modest-sized New York City restaurant.

Such is the case with the extraordinary Pedrito Martinez Group, whose legendary residency at Manhattan’s Guantanamera Restaurant has earned the group and its leader wide-eyed praise from titans of rock, jazz, and Latin music alike. Martinez can count among his fans Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Rubén Blades, Steve Winwood, Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Steve Gadd, Paquito D’Rivera, and Joe Lovano, to name but a few. Wynton Marsalis himself puts it simply: “Pedrito is a genius.”

Since relocating to New York in 2000, the Cuban-born Martinez has extended and refined his consummate mastery of a wide variety of popular Latin music forms anchored with a deep mastery of Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms. His exceptionally strong tenor voice and dizzying skills on the congas are stretched by an infectious energy and unmistakable joy in the making of music, and he has found the perfect vehicle for his talents with his amazing quartet, which includes Álvaro Benavides providing elastic counterpoint and locked-in groove on electric bass, Jhair Sala (who has played with Martinez since the age of 10) on vocals and percussion, and the band’s newest member, the exceptional pianist Edgar Pantoja-Aleman. The band creates a very big sound, able to seemingly ratchet up to the intensity and drive of a full salsa orchestra, and yet still turn on a dime with the improvisatory flexibility of a small jazz group.





Seattle’s own Latin music heroes Picoso opened the show last night at Nectar. 2015 had an evening of Latin music opening withPicoso, an ensemble with one foot in the Son Montuno of Eastern Cuba, and one in Seattle’s fertile jazz-groove scene. The group, who recently released their long-awaited Mi Paraiso, Picoso’s third full-length album which demonstrates their maturation as a band and their unique brand of Latin music, at once grown in the Pacific Northwest and rooted in tradition.









Last Saturday night at Town Hall, Earshot Jazz Festival 2013 presented La Familia Valera Miranda.
Father Félix Valera Miranda (guitar and vocals), wife Carmen (maracas and vocals) and sons Enrique “Kiki” (cuatro), Raúl (bass) and Ernesto (bongos) have virtually defined Cauto son, the mid-tempo form of the Cuban son style, marked by its easy-going, contagious swing. In this special Seattle residency, this family, plus Wilfredo Fuentes (congas) and Antonio Rodón (clave and vocals), from Santiago de Cuba, shares in a masterclass and performs.

One of several families that have played a significant role in carrying the deeply rooted local traditions of Cuba’s unique musical identity, La Familia Valera Miranda stems from subsistence farmer ancestors that populated the rural areas of the Oriente (eastern Cuba), primarily the Cauto River valley near the villages of Bayamo and Las Tunas. As they gradually migrated to the areas of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, and the legendary Sierra Maestra mountains, La Familia’s ancestors exchanged artistic knowledge of their music as well as their daily and social life.

The Valera branch contributed Hispanic elements and Afro-Cuban elements derived from Bantu origins. The Miranda branch brought elements specific to the Canary Islands and Andalucía, as well as unusual Afro-Hispanic mixtures represented, in part, by the famous singer Milla Miranda, the mother of Félix Valera.

Here is a link to the Earshot Jazz Festival website  schedule for the rest of the Festival.









Here is a link to the Earshot Jazz Festival website  schedule for the rest of the Festival.