Bill Bragin is director of Public Programming for Lincoln Center, where he produces the popular Midsummer Night Swing and Lincoln Center Out of Doors festivals as well as programming for the Lincoln Center’s new David Rubenstein Atrium.
Whenever I am looking for a place to bring out-of-town musical visitors, top on my list is Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez’ weekly gigs at Guantanamera. My guests are always blown away. Winner of the Thelonious Monk competition for hand percussion, Pedrito is one of the finest percussionists in the country, if not the world, and his residency has helped his group develop near telepathic communication. Seeing them at their home base at Guantanamera is like seeing Monk at the Five Spot, or The Ramones at CBGBs. The fact that he usually plays three nights a week, three sets a night with no cover charge, great food and mojitos is one of the true secret treasures of New York. His gigs have become a pilgrimage for other musicians — fans include Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Steve Gadd, Derek Trucks, Giovanni Hidalgo, Wynton Marsalis — I’ve seen them all there firsthand, on multiple occasions. Pedrito is truly a musicians’ musician.