Spanish-born Maria Quiñones created the persona of Martirio (which translates as "martyr") as an onstage alter ego, one who wears dark glasses and large, decorative combs known as peinetas. She performed with numerous groups before joining the group Veneno (Poison), which helped vault her to prominence.
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Throughout her career, the 49-year old vocalist has sought to blend flamenco with other influences such as tango and guaracha, along with pop and jazz. Her latest disc, Primavera en Nueva York (Calle 54 Records), was recorded in a Manhattan studio. Martirio is backed by U.S.-based jazz musicians, including drummer Dafnis Prieto, legendary clarinetist Paquito D' Rivera, and Brazilian pianist Claudio Roditi. The arrangements come from producer Nat Chediak, best known for his work with pianist Bebo Valdes, and for helming the soundtrack of Calle 54.
Martirio reinvents classic boleros with a refreshing approach. For instance, Mercedes Fernández's "No Puedo Callar" is played as a bossa nova, while Ella O'Farrill's "Son Cosas Que Pasan" is given a mellow modern jazz arrangement that serves as an opportunity for the musicians to show their chops. Martirio herself sounds perfectly comfortable in this format, delivering subtle interpretations of each song without losing the flourishes that have made her a legendary flamenco singer. For her live performance, Martirio will be backed by pianist Kenny Drew Jr., acoustic bassist Armando Gola, and Clarence Penn on drums.
Martirio performs on Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, at the Manuel Artime Theater, 900 SW 1st St, Miami. The show starts at 8:00 p.m, and tickets are $35 to $50. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.