SAMUEL TORRES, PERCUSSION
When the imposing talents of one of today’s most versatile Latin jazz artists meld with the organic richness of some of the world’s greatest cultural melting pots, the results are guaranteed to be as fresh and virtuosic as they are revealing and magical.
Samuel Torres was born September 4, 1976 in Colombia’s bustling capital city of Bogotá and was nurtured in this culturally sophisticated metropolis where jazz and classical music share the stage with salsa and an infinite variety of 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 music genres, from the infectious rhythms of the cumbia and vallenato to styles which reflect a range of African, indigenous and European influences, including the porro, bambuco and pasillo.
A major inspiration was Edy Martínez, an uncle who had risen to fame in the New York City salsa scene in the early 1970s as a pianist and arranger in conga player Ray Barretto’s popular conjunto. Torres further cites Barretto as a primary influence and credits exposure to two seminal Barretto albums that featured his uncle, the early Latin jazz classic The Other Road and the salsa powerhouse Indestructible, as helping to spur his interest in becoming a musician.
By the age of 12, Torres was performing with various Bogotá 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 Bogotá’s esteemed Universidad Javeriana. Before departing for the U.S. in 1999, the resourceful young artist had become an established figure on Colombia’s hectic 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 Cuban 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 and/or record 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, Alejandro Sanz, Ricky Martin, Don Byron, Richard Bona, Lila Downs, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Angelique Kidjo, Marc Anthony, Rubén Blades, Fonseca, Andrés Cepeda, Thalía, and his country’s own international superstar, Shakira. His talents have also been featured in concerts with classical orchestras as Berlin Symphoniker, City of London Sinfonia, Boston Pops, Bogotá Philharmonic, Medellín Philharmonic, Delaware University Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony.
Rounding out the Colombian musician’s résumé are his show-stopping performance for the 2000 edition of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition , 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.
In 2006, Torres released Skin Tones, 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." Then comes Yaoundé, the much anticipated follow-up session. The recording is even more stylistically adventurous than its predecessor, with 13 invigorating tracks that draw from the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of Colombian folkloric traditions Torres has cultivated as well as African sonorities and shadings of funk and avant-garde jazz.
On 2012 Torres was awarded a New Jazz Works Grant by Chamber Music America, for which he wrote a profoundly deep 10 movement suite that addresses a tragic issue occurring in his beloved native country. His new release for the Zoho Label, Forced Displacement is dedicated to the victims of the violence in Colombia caused by the ongoing conflict.
As he persuasively demonstrates on his music, 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.