Simmering New Songs, Oldschool Salsa Grooves at Pedrito Martinez’s Drom Residency

by delarue

Percussionist Pedrito Martinez is a New York institution. He came out of Cuba to become a prime mover in the revitalization of this city’s salsa scene at a time when it had gone soft with salsa romantica. Until the lockdown, he held down weekly residencies at a long series of venues. This blog has witnessed his rumbling, dynamically shapeshifting live show at both small-club and big mainstage jazz festival appearances. Either way, he and his band jam like crazy. Martinez’s next gig is his now-monthly residency at Drom tomorrow night, May 12 at 7 PM; as of right now you can still get a $20 advance ticket.

As you would expect at an Alphabet City venue, the Drom shows are a dance party for what’s left of a vital, long-entrenched neighborhood Puerto Rican contingent. You can get a table with your friends, but by the end of the show, a little before nine, everybody’s on their feet. If you’re lucky, Martinez will show off his chops on bass as well as behind his huge rack of congas and other bangable objects.

Martinez also distinguishes himself by writing original tunes rather than just rehashing the classics. He has a new single, My Father’s Eyes, a characteristically slinky, swaying duet with Eric Clapton infused with some gospel-tinged piano as well. The gist of the song is what how our ancestors would react to the pivotal historical moment we find ourselves in right now.

Martinez and the blues guitar icon – who in the last couple of years has reinvented himself as a freedom fighter – have another single, Yo Si Quiero, with jazz saxophonist Kenny Garrett. Don’t let the twinkly electric piano intro fool you – Garrett digs in as hard with his soprano sax as Martinez does on the mic and Clapton does in his tantalizing cameo, against a blippy psych-salsa backdrop. That blend of ferocity and finesse says a lot about where Martinez’s live show is these days.