ROBERT MARTINO – A GIANT, ONE OF THE BEST GUITAR PLAYERS OF THE CARIBBEAN AND LATIN AMERICA….STILL STANDING
After learning his musical subjects on the job while working as a self-taught person to refine his talent as a ” string-man ”, Robert emerged at a very young age as a licensed solo guitarist and fertile composer with “Les Difficiles” de Pétion-Ville at the controls of which he imposed himself as a co-leader; with his friend the singer Henri Célestin. During the rock & roll infatuated sixties. Having previously worked with this group to interpret local and overseas hits. Then, after getting rid of the saxophonist Jean Claude Labissière, Robert then got down to directing “Les Difficiles” towards native music.
t the height of an exclusive signature, surrounded by a flourishing sonority of a guitar rich in glissandos and at the same time so instilled with swing. It was by coming to terms with their all-out that the group suddenly took center stage. It must be said that it was at a time or after the break-up of the “Tabou Combo” the strings groups were not very legion.
It was the tumultuous start of the seventies and Robert and “Les Difficiles” chose to be unstoppable, which was the year of their meteoric rise. Men Polo, Tounen, Selavi… and boom, it’s time to go. During a performance of the group, Martino and Porky the bassist come to the invectives. It is the rupture. In fact, this moment looks like a scenario concocted by the Robert trio, his then fiancée Jessie Al-Khal and his future brother-in-law Pierrot; so that Robert can slip away to come and count and make gang together. In any case, with “Les Gypsies”, it was a rich page of ambient music, of a guitar providing harmony, melody, as much as in the art of shortcuts.
Propelling a group which knew how to rally so many votes for more than one chandelier. While rewarding Successful albums: # 1: ” Haiti ”, # 2, ” Patience ”, # 3 ” Courage ”, # 4 ” The Tulip ”. The latter produced during their New York experience; to conquer the domain of “Tabou Combo”, “Skah-Shah” etc.
Following this New York hike which has delighted the people there, Robert and his band return to the fold in an atmosphere marked by end-of-cycle jolts. He then released the album: # 5“Pride ”, not quite in the game. It is the beginning of the end for strings groups facing the wave of groups with copper armadas. At this point, Martino decides to step aside for a re-evaluation of the data. That is to say, move back to rebound better. This is what he administered by resurfacing with “Le Scorpio”, a group with a new formula, endowed with a horn-section in the manner of the West Indian groups which took local show business by storm. Apart from the wind section, a synthesizer keyboard is also incorporated. Which didn’t mean that Robert wasn’t always going to make them his own.
With the “Scorpio” Robert continued to occupy the front of the stage, as was the case with “Les Difficiles”, then, “Les Gypsies”. And the hits persisted under his signature, his leadership and his mastery. Still an adaptive musician and referential guitarist, he continues to push his curiosity towards other parameters such as: rock, jazz, blues, reggae and other sounds of the 70s and 80s integrated with native parameters; in the crossbreeding of global music. Yet he was kicked out of the group by a core of claimants. Finally discouraged, he threw the apron away. Despite everything, he returns to save the furniture, just for the time of a carnival of which he has also made himself the ultimate provider. After the “Scorpio” debacle, he took a further step back from show business.
In the mid-1980s, he moved to Florida where he again demonstrated his ability to bounce back. By exploring the formula of the “drum machine” with the “Top Vice”. Which momentarily becomes the star formation of the “Sunshine State”; the lead installer of Compas elektro. It is true that there was little creativity in the music of the group “darling of Miami”, which was mainly content to interpret the successes of others. But, the atmosphere was at its peak, and Robert had still been able to recharge his batteries in the energy of the new generation.
However, without a hint of clarity of which he knew to be one of the ultimate gratifiers. In such a context his playing seemed dull and his guitar out of breath. Hailed by the new wave, including his sons Roberto and Reynaldo who have followed in dad’s footsteps, by forming a group called “T-Vice”, as if to summon the old man that it was time to hand over the family business to the youngsters which could never forget the father whose exclusive signature will always resonate within the confines of vibrations, of an epic proportion of Compas music. Robert Martino is considered as one of the greatest guitat players of the Caribbean and Latin America. [Ed Rainer has contributed to this article]
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