Pedrito Martinez Group Brings Audience to a Boil


Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

Genuine Cuban jazz coming from New York City to Moorhead, Minn., that is.

It’s a good thing we have performers like the Pedrito Martinez Group in this world, otherwise us folks in Fargo-Moorhead would take longer to thaw out at the end of winter. But more importantly, this rootsy yet modern quartet is probably the spiciest and best in the biz. And there’s nothing better once you’ve had the best.

With no set list provided in the night’s program, the only fair warnings the audience had of the performance was its length (90 minutes) and its lack of an intermission (no complaints there).

Martinez and his bandmates — Edgar Pantoja-Aleman on piano, Alvaro Benavides on bass guitar and Jhair Sala on percussion – led a charge into uncharted territory (at least for us) with their performance, pinballing among hot, modern jazz, sweet-styled drum work and solos that packed a punch.

By the end of it all, the crowd was on its feet, dancing near the stage and in the seats. While a bit stiff at first, the audience did warm up  to Martinez’s brand of band and his warm presence brought the venue to a boil in the last half-hour.

It’s hard to say how many audience members actually knew how to salsa, but their moves were enough for Martinez and his pals, who even threw out some of their own moves over the night. Their easygoing performance style made everything look effortless, from Benavides plucking his bass down to Sala clanking his cowbell.

Meanwhile, Pantoja-Aleman’s piano seemed like an extension of his own self as he churned out the jazz all night long, never leaving his seat except before the encore. Here’s a man who tickles the ivories in all the right places.

And it was all gold for the audience on hand. Some of them did get a bit carried away with the intimacy Martinez made available (how many selfies does one person need with the guy?), but everyone behaved themselves in a show that was perhaps the best of MSUM’s Cheryl Nelson Lossett Performing Arts Series’s season.

Aside from the constant comings and goings of many in attendance (which got annoying real fast), the performance had few dents. The Pedrito Martinez Group warded off any winter blues in the room and primed everyone for summer while spring is yet to come.

The Pedrito Martinez Group performed March 5 at MSUM’s Hansen Theatre. 

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