It’s not your traditional Moab Music Festival concert. There will be a dance area.
And that’s a good thing, because once the Pedrito Martinez Group begins to play, people will want to groove.
“Their music is infectious,” said Laura Brown, director of the Moab Music Festival. “Patrons are encouraged to work out their salsa moves to the hot Afro-Cuban rhythm.”
The Pedrito Martinez Group will perform at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Sorrel River Ranch and Spa.
The group will also be performing for the Grand County Middle and High School students on Friday, Sept. 6 at the high school. A special Q & A will be held with the band members after the school concert for the high school’s Amigo Club.
“They are the new ‘it’ band in Latin music performing in North America,” Brown said.
Pedro Pablo “Pedrito” Martinez was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his musical career at the age of 11, performing as vocalist and percussionist, playing with such Cuban legends as Tata Guines, Munequitos de Matanzas. He was brought to Canada in 1998, by Jane Bunnett, to tour with her group, Spirits of Havana.
Martínez was also a member of the Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat band,Yerba Buena. When he was with the band he recorded two albums and toured the world opening for bands including the Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles.
Brown said that Martinez persona is as strong as the music.
“He has this smile where you just go, ‘Whoa!’” Brown said.
Martinez is joined by Ariacne Trujillo, who was also born in Havana. She was invited to tour in the U.S. by the Chamber Music Society of America and Bard University in New York in 1998. In 2000, she joined the show at the Cabaret Tropicana de Cuba as a pianist and performed as a solo vocalist and dancer the following year.
Trujillo met Martinez in 2004 when they were playing in different bands together in and around NYC. They soon realized that their voices clicked in a very unique way.
The experience of being in Martinez’s group has been very important for Trujillo.
“I feel like a fish in the water. The music flows so naturally between us. I think this has to do with the energy, and not just music, but personal energy,” Trujillo said. “I’m so happy when I’m on stage with the group.”
Alvaro Benavides was born in Caracas, Venezuela, Alvaro Benavides’ interest in music began at the age of 12 when he heard Paquito D’Rivera’s album “Why Not.” The sound of the saxophone on that recording entranced him and led his grandfather to present him buy him a saxophone; his first musical instrument.
In 1995, Benavides received the “Best Entering Scholarship” award from the Berklee College of Music. He packed his bags and his instrument, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in January 1996.
Trujillo said that the camaraderie extends beyond performances.
On January 1, 2004, Benavides’ dream of moving to New York City became a reality. He quickly made his way into the music scene, connecting and playing with several Cuban bands, including: the Enrique Lopez Quartet, NuGuajiro, and José Conde.
Benavides first met Martinez in 2006 when he was called to sub for the bass player at Guantanamera Restaurant. Martinez loved Benavides’ groove and Benavides was inspired by Martinez’s talent and musicianship. With every gig, their musical connection has grown stronger. In 2009 he became the official bass player for the Pedrito Martinez Group.
Jhair Sala is a world-class and in-demand percussionist who regularly performs with the Pedrito Martinez Group.Sala’s unique style represents a new-school approach to Afro-Peruvian and Afro-Cuban musical styles.
When the Peruvian-born Sala was barely three-years-old, he sat with his father beating on wooden boxes known as cajons. At that tender age, Sala’s inherent percussive talents were pushing through. His family moved to New Jersey when he was six, and his passion for percussion continued to grow.
Once settled in America, Sala had the opportunity to study percussion with his idol — Martinez. Under Martinez’s guidance, he absorbed Cuban music and gained fluency on congas, bongos, timbales, and Bata. Subsequent lessons with Roberto Chino Bolaños readied him for his first significant American appearance.
“Pedrito, Alvaro and Jhair are not just amazing musicians but wonderful friends as well,” Trujillo said. “Everyone has their time to shine, and express themselves but we are a great team and have a strong connection through our music.”