The release of La Habana Vive, his worldwide recording debut on the Blue Jackel label, is a propitious moment in the global popularization of Cuban music not unlike the emergence of the revolutionary jazz group Irakere in the 1970s and such one-of-a-kind instrumentalists as pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba in the '80s.
La Habana Vive distills the musician's lifelong experiences into one scintillating package, covering with disarming ease the vast stylistic distance between the Yoruba chants and earthy Afro-Cuban rhythms that highlight some of the album's tracks and the songo, funk, bebop and bossa influences that percolate to the surface elsewhere on the date.
La Habana Vive is an astounding summit of world class Cuban, European, North and South American musicians. It confirms the vibrant nature of the Latin music scene in Europe and the universal appeal of Cuban-rooted music as it confidently announces the arrival of Cuba's most talented saxophonist to emerge since Paquito d'Rivera captivated a global audience two decades ago.
But perhaps most of all it verifies that Tony Martinez remains a rumbero at heart - a musician forever linked to the traditions that first caught his ear in the shaded plazas of Camagüey, where local percussionists and singers gathered with their homemade congas and claves every Saturday night to bring to life the haunting rhythms of mother Africa and the sentimental melodies of the Spanish colonial era. On La Habana Vive, the jazz he's grown to love and the Afro-Cuban rhythms that nurtured his soul as a youth form the kind of powerful union that only a rare talent like Tony Martinez can translate and make an instantly joyous experience for the rest of us.
Reviews"La Habana Vive, a collection of MartÃnez originals, features the talents of drummer Julio Barreto (Gonzalo Rubalcaba quartet veteran), trumpeter Mario Hernandez "El Indio" (a 20-year Irakere stalwart) and Julio PadrÃ³n (Irakere's current trumpeter). In addition, Gonzalo Rubalcaba lends his piano wizardry on "Noticias De Cuba," the samba-dappled "De La Habana A Bahia," and the Yoruba-inspired "A Elegba." MartÃnez also discourses on rumba ("Porque Soy Rumbero"), cha cha cha, funk and Latin jazz ("Coltrane My Giant," "ReconciliaciÃ³n II," and the title track), in an evocative blend of instrumental and vocal elements that signals a standard-breaking debut." - Michael Stone