. . . at once intelligent, sophisticated and explosive." - JazzTimes
. . . has written and recorded music for his project that is inventive, lyrical, and important work. He is a special artist"- Jeff Tain" Watts
[Samuel Torres'] playing is full of joy and that's what music is all about" - Richard Bona
. . . a ferocious conga solo by Samuel Torres that seemed not humanly possible." - The Boston Globe
The music on Yaound, the second recording from percussionist/composer Samuel Torres, is the product of one of today's most versatile and formidable Latin jazz artists absorbing the richness of some of the world's greatest cultural melting pots. The release of Yaounde, available on March 23, 2010, confirms that this multifaceted musician's prowess as a composer has come to rival his international acclaim as one of the best percussionists of his generation.
A 2005 trip to Africa with guitarist Richard Bona sparked an interest in African music and its connection to many of his homeland's rhythms. It unleashed a flood of creative energy that led directly to the creation of Yaounde. My trip to Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon, was very emotional," he recalls. At that moment, I began a new period in my life. The song 'Yaounde' was the first tune that I wrote after the experience, and out of that compositional process the rest of the songs flowed."
Yaounde is the follow up recording to Skin Tones (2006), his debut recording as a leader and an album that quickly solidified his reputation as one of the most creative percussionists in Latin jazz today. The effort was trumpeted by JazzTimes magazine as at once intelligent, sophisticated and explosive." Now with Yaounde Mr. Torres shows an even more stylistically adventurous side, with 13 invigorating tracks that draw from the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of Colombian folkloric traditions, as well as African sonorities and shadings of funk and jazz.
Although now a seasoned artist in his mid 30s, Torres still boasts the same inquisitive personality that prompted his early interest in music as a young boy in Bogot. His exposure to African music at its source provided Torres with a new appreciation of how some of the styles of his native Colombia had evolved. He discovered, for instance, the striking similarity between the currulao, a style from Colombia's Pacific coast region, and the balafon music of Cameroon. Initially, I didn't have the intention to do a Colombian jazz album, but as time went on, I felt the need to do it in certain styles. Maybe I was in search of my own identity, or perhaps it was a desire to explore the African influence in Colombian music. It also came from my own perspective of living in New York, of traveling all around, and of loving Latin jazz, salsa, and Cuban and African music and realizing how all of these styles can interact."
As he did on Skin Tones, Torres surrounds himself with a large cast of musicians who bring their strongly individualistic perspectives to the group sound. Among the headliners whose talents make Yaounde so memorable are woodwind artists Anat Cohen and Joel Frahm, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, pianist Manuel Valera, bassist John Benitez, timbalero Ralph Irizarry, drummer Ernesto Simpson, vocalist Sofa Rei Koutsovitis, and tiple (12-string Colombian guitar) player Andrs Garca.
The combinations of these diverse musicians, I strongly believe, give the flavor of what I was trying to get on Yaounde," Torres explains. The album features a lot of Colombian music, but it comes with a vision from New York and the spirit of West Africa. The group includes Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jewish, Colombian and other South American musicians, but they are players who are really well versed in both jazz and Latin music."
More on Samuel Torres: Torres was born September 4, 1976 in Colombia's capital city of Bogota and was nurtured in this culturally sophisticated metropolis where jazz and classical music share the stage with salsa and Colombian folkloric idioms. His earliest exposure to music came at home, thanks to an extended family of musicians and ready access to a wealth of Colombian genres. By the age of 12, Torres was performing with various Bogota ensembles, developing techniques that allowed him to quickly adapt to the demands of jazz, pop music and salsa. A classically trained percussionist, he earned a degree in Music Composition from Bogota's esteemed Universidad Javeriana. Before departing for the U.S. in 1999, the resourceful young artist had become an established figure on Colombia's fertile music scene, backing leading Colombian performers while serving as an arranger and music director for his country's highly regarded telenovelas (TV soap operas) and films.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., his career took a dramatic turn when he was tapped by famed trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval to join his group. Torres spent four years touring the world and recording with the jazz great, polishing his ever-expanding talents while attracting the attention of a long list of renowned artists with whom he would eventually collaborate. Over time, he would perform with a veritable who's who" of the jazz, Latin pop and salsa world, including such luminaries as Tito Puente, Paquito D'Rivera, Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Don Byron, Claudio Roditi, Richard Bona, Poncho Sanchez, Lila Downs, Marc Anthony, Thala, and his country's own international superstar, Shakira. His talents have also been featured in concerts with the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony and at a host of music festivals around the world.
Rounding out the Colombian musician's resume are his show-stopping performance for the 2000 edition of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for Hand Percussion, where he placed second, and his association with Latin Percussion, Inc., for whom he produced the DVD, Drum Solos Revisited. Martin Cohen, the founder of LP who has collaborated with most of the Latin world's finest percussionists over the past four decades, lauds Torres as the most talented arranger and producer he has encountered in over 25 years.
Although his command of percussion techniques is astounding, what makes Samuel Torres stand out from the crowd are his fully developed skills as a composer and arranger. Since I began playing Latin percussion, I felt there was a pervading bad attitude about percussionists," he comments. People would laugh and say, 'There are musicians, and then are conga players.' One of the things that I wanted to do in my career was to help change that incorrect impression, and I believe that composition is one way to do that. Composition is a big tool to help understand music. It enables you to express many feelings that might be difficult to communicate as a player."
As he persuasively demonstrates on Yaounde, Samuel Torres transcends the conventional definition of a percussionist. He's a fully developed musician in the true meaning of the word - an artist who passionately follows his intuitions, ever broadening his horizons while further honing his wide-ranging, world class skills.