Manhattan: Subrosa's Soft Launch Hits Hard

Pedrito Martinez/ photo: Michael Weintrob

The bad news: If you’ve never caught the Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez leading his quartet at the midtown Manhattan restaurant Guantanamera, where he held court for nearly a decade, you never will.
“At first we played traditional Cuban songs, but then we decided 
to just play what we love and let people get used to it,” Martinez told me for this feature story I wrote about him in 2012.
People got used to it—enough so that the gig became a scene, drawing players from all walks of music, from Wynton Marsalis to Eric Clapton.
But that gig is done.
The good news: Martinez’s residency lives on—now transplanted to Subrosa, a new venue in Manhattan’s newly fashionable meatpacking district. Subrosa is owned and operated by the Blue Note Entertainment Group, a company anchored by its namesake Greenwich Village jazz club. The new club, which seats 120, feels intimate without seeming cramped, elegant yet not slicked-up: white-painted brick walls and cafe tables give way to a horseshoe-shaped bar in the rear.
By now, Martinez’s mesmerizing talents as singer and percussionist have made him as potent a force on New York’s music scene as there has been in many years, sparking new attention to and possibilities for Afro-Cuban tradition. If Thursday night’s first set was any indication, the high energy, deep musicality and spontaneity of his former Guantanamera residency continues apace.
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