Join Me For Conversation and Live Music With David Virelles & Román Díaz on Oct. 18 (Special Offer for Pedrito Martinez Tickets!)

David Virelles, in conversation with Román Díaz and Larry Blumenfeld at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem Oct. 18
David Virelles, in conversation with Román Díaz and Larry Blumenfeld at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem Oct. 18

During my first of four sessions of “NYC: The Afro-Cuban Beat” at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, saxophonist and chekere player Yosvany Terry shared, among other things: secrets from his birthplace, Cuba’s Camagüey province; lessons from his father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry, a violinist and master of the chekeré; and new unreleased music from his innovative collective, Bohemian Trio.
If you missed all that, you’ll want to make it to the museum on Tuesday, October 18.
It will be an especially powerful session, thanks to the presence of pianist David Virelles and percussonist Román Díaz, two musicians who have invigorated the New York scene in several ways, including while playing together. The premise of my series is that Afro-Cuban traditions (not just rhythms, despite my title) have always coursed through New York City jazz; my “beat” covering that scene has revealed a recent flowering of that connection and its possibilities.
We’ll have discussion, recorded excerpts and live duo performance. Suggested $10 donation.
Here’s more on the program:
History, Mystery and Modernism: Pianist and composer David Virelles mines traditions of his native Santiago, Cuba, while using his current home in Brooklyn as a base for some of New York’s most striking and progressive music. Since coming to the U.S. in 1999, master percussionist, scholar and composer Román Díaz has been mentor to many musicians, key player in several ensembles, a spiritual guide to wide-ranging scene. Virelles and Díaz will discuss and demonstrate and discuss how musicology, mysticism and Cuban culture combine in their music.
I’ve written widely about both musicians. Here’s a blog piece on Díaz (which includes an embedded video from his Thursday night midnight rumba at Zinc Bar; and a Wall Street Journal profile of Virelles. Both articles out-of-date by now (these guys never stand still); we’ll be discussing what gave rise to thier music and how it continues to grow.
Here’s what’s coming up in the series in November:
November 7:
The Conversation Continued: Grammy-winning pianist and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill reflects on: the journey of his father, composer Chico O’Farrill, from Cuba to Manhattan; his own journeys in reverse; the founding and development of his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; the present diplomatic embrace between the U.S. and Cuba; and his dream of an expansive, borderless musical tradition.
November 15:
New Yor-Uba, Then and Now: More than 30 years ago, pianist and composer Michele Rosewoman’s parallel paths—jazz and Afro-Cuban folklore—merged into a compelling whole in New York through her New Yor-Uba ensemble. Rosewoman will describe the awakening that led to that group, remember her studies with the late Orlando “Puntilla” Ríos, and explain the cross-generational way in which she has rekindled that group’s flame.
About that special offer:
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem invites you to its 2nd Annual Harlem Shout Fall Benefit Concert featuring Grammy  nominated Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez his quartet at the historic Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem on Nov. 1.
Proceeds go towards supporting ongoing free Jazz for Curious Listeners programming and Born in Harlem education programs for Upper Manhattan schools.
I’ve written about Pedrito often. Of course, he’d be a great addition to my conversation series. Then again, he says it all with his drums, his chants and his band. Also, good as his band has been, I’m told that the wondeful Yunior Terry (brother of Yosvany) is now the group’s bassist; that news gives me chills.
While supplies last (as they say on TV), the Museum is offering 50% to Blu Notes readers at this link. See you there.

Pedrito Martinez Turns Symphony Space Into a Dance Hall & Previews His New CD

Pedrito Martinez (right) performing with (left to right) Isaac Delgado, Isaac Delgado Jr. and Jhair Sala at Symphony Space/ photo Rahav Segev
Pedrito Martinez (right) performing with (left to right) Isaac Delgado, Isaac Delgado Jr. and Jhair Sala at Symphony Space/ photo Rahav Segev

The “Rumba in the Alley” that should have overtaken a stretch of Broadway between 93rd and 94th Street in Manhattan got rained out May 1. It was intended as a kickoff for the first installment of Symphony Space’s ambitious new annual undertaking, The Source Project—weeklong celebrations tracing the influence of Africa on New World cultures.
This year’s focus was Afro-Cuban culture, with mixture of well-curated music, discussion and documentary films. It’s a shame that percussionist Román Díaz didn’t get to use his rather magical powers to restore, if only temporarily, a stretch of Broadway that once reflected the power of Afro Latin influence in New York City yet is now mostly gentrified into yet another urban anyplace.
Díaz can do that sort of thing, as I described here.
Still, one of Díaz’s prime disciples, percussionist and singer Pedrito Martinez, closed the Symphony Space series on Sunday night with a concert that channeled a slice of this history and galvanized a still-vital community, one that knows how to clap a correct clave and turn any theater into a dance hall. Continue reading “Pedrito Martinez Turns Symphony Space Into a Dance Hall & Previews His New CD”

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.
Continue reading “Manhattan: Subrosa's Soft Launch Hits Hard”