The TJ Martell Foundation luncheon in Miami, honoring Gloria and Emilio Estefan, was an intimate, heartfelt affair that often felt like a warm, extended family gathering, featuring beautifully executed music by Emily Estefan and Diego Torres.
Scheduled as part of the Natpe market at the Eden Roc hotel on Thursday (Jan. 19), it was the foundation’s inaugural event in Miami and the first since the death of founder Tony Martell in November.
“To receive this award the first time TJ Martell celebrates an event in Miami is incredible for us,” said Gloria Estefan, accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award with hubby Emilio. “We love Tony Martell, we love what he did. He turned a lot of pain into a lot of wonderful things.”
“When I used to go to Sony, Tony was always there with a beautiful smile,” added Emilio Estefan. “In [music], it’s important to use our career to make people’s lives better. It’s not just about us.”
On Thursday, it was about different sectors of Miami’s Latin music community coming together for a cause that is close to many. Hosted by Enrique Santos, the popular radio host who now heads iHeartMedia’s new Latin division, speakers included Marielena Santana Marroquin, widow of CAA agent Rick Marroquín, who died last year of cancer.
In turn, the Estefan’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Afo Verde, Sony Music Entertainment’s Chairman/CEO of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, who was a TJ Martell honoree in New York in 2014. Verde, who has a long history with the Estefans, spoke to the couple’s musical and cultural legacy.
“Gloria is one of the great music artists,” he said to applause. “To hear one measure and say, ‘That’s Gloria Estefan,’ that’s what all artists dream of.”
“I think we’ve never had a more beautiful introduction,” a smiling Estefan responded.
The event was punctuated by two excellent musical performances. First came Emily Estefan — yes, daughter of Emilio and Gloria — soon to release her debut album. Backed by a powerful band that included horns, Estefan sounded uncannily like her mom, but applied her vocals to a hard to a blend of funk, soul and jazz. Both the pipes and the level of musicianship were impressive.
Next came the soulful Diego Torres, who sang an acoustic set accompanied only by guitar, keyboard and light percussion, which included new anthem “Igualdad,” and his perennially beautiful “Color Esperanza” (Color of Hope).
It was a fitting end for an inaugural event that celebrated life and hope.