New Album Release ALEGRIAFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The new recording, ALEGRIA, from percussionist/composer/bandleader SAMUEL TORRES (from Bogota, Colombia, and based in Astoria, NY), is a celebration of life! As a bandleader Torres has released four recordings, including the much-heralded albums Skin Tones, Yaoundé and Regreso (with Nueva Filarmonía Orchestra from Colombia). His fourth recording, Forced Displacement, was a searing commentary on the sociopolitical situation in Colombia. In stark contrast, Alegria, which means “happiness" or “joy," presents eight original compositions that captivate and inspire. Torres elaborates, “in these somewhat dark and divisive times we need light and joy, and we need to share these things with each other to combat hate. For us (Latinos) dancing is vital for celebration, and that’s what this record is all about. It is an inclusive celebration for the teenagers, the kids, the crazy aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters . . . everyone! This music has many elements and ingredients, but it is rhythm and dance that brings it all together, as it is light and joy that brings people together."
With a New Jazz Works Grant from Chamber Music America in his pocket (Torres holding the distinction of being a two-time recipient of the award), Torres put his formidable composer’s mind and his boundless hopefulness to work, creating an album that would awaken the positivity and jubilation in the listener, and serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. The music on Alegria is inspired by music of the urban and dance scene of Bogota, and embodies all of the love, vitality, joie de vivre, and magnificent talent, which Torres and his ace band, comprised of many of NYC’s finest musicians, brought to every note.
The album’s co-producer, Kabir Sehgal, said of working with Torres on Alegria, “It has indeed been a joy to produce Alegria with maestro Torres. He is a one-of-a-kind, irrepressibly magnificent artist who taps his whole being for his music. He’s a marvel, and his music is a model for us all." – Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times bestselling author and Multi-Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winning producer
More on the music on Alegria with Samuel Torres: Torres, well versed in dozens of folkloric traditions from around the world, offers a kaleidoscopic of melody, harmony, and of course, rhythm. During the course of this invigorating album you will hear rhythms from his native Colombia (cumbia on “Preludio a un Abrazo," and with more indigenous influence on the title track), as well as Boogaloo from NYC (on “Barretto Power"), Guaguanco - Cuban Descarga (on “Anga," dedicated to the memory of Cuban percussionist Miguel “Anga" Diaz), Bolero, with bachata influences (on “Bolero Para Raquel"), Salsa Choke (a famous style that mixes contemporary Urban Spoken Word over a Cuban Pilon pattern (on “Salsa, Jazz y Choke"), funk mixed with a blend of Central African rhythms and Peruvian Lando (on “The Strength to Love"), and Ecuadorian and Colombian Bambuco (on one of the album’s prettiest tunes, “Little Grasshopper").
1. Salsa, Jazz y Choke – There is contemporary urban style of music in Colombia called Salsa Choke, became famous because the Colombian National Soccer team would dance to these sounds at The World Cup. Salsa Choke hails from the Pacific coast, where the strongest Afro-Colombian community is based. Basically, the music incorporates rap over a Cuban Pilon loop. Some people love it, some don’t, but much of the aesthetic is borrowed from hip-hop, and there is often a social protest aspect to the lyrics. I loved the groove so I thought why not make it more interesting. In my composition process I frequently use simple motifs as a jumping off point.
Solos: Marshall Gilkes (Trombone) , Luis Perdomo (Piano), Samuel Torres (Congas)
2. The Strength to Love – Comprised of two motifs, one that represents a strong African heritage, and the other, love. I decided to name this composition after reading sections of Martin Luther King’s “The Strength to Love," as an example of using love to fight hate.
Solos: Luis Perdomo (Fender Rhodes), Joel Frahm (Tenor Sax), Samuel Torres (Talking Drum)
3. Barretto Power – A Boogaloo dedicated to my hero Ray Barretto, I think the recordings he did in the early 70’s which combined soul, jazz and other elements, were so important and Boogaloo represents the sound of Latin-Urban NYC of that era. Because Barretto was so interested in hip, advanced harmony, this tune is composed with a variety of dissonant harmonic colors.
Solos: Ruben Rodriguez (Electric Bass), Ivan Renta (Baritone Sax), Pablo Bencid (Drums)
4. Preludio a un Abrazo – In our human process of reconciliation there are many steps, but I think a strong and sincere hug is the best representation of forgiveness. The rhythm is a Colombian Bullerengue (the mother of Cumbia), and it’s constructed as a transparent piano prelude, and then orchestrated. Solos: Luis Perdomo (Piano). Michael Rodriguez (Trumpet), Will Vinson (Soprano Sax)
5. Little Grasshopper – A tune intended to feature the Kalimba, featuring a simple melody over a 6/8 rhythmic pattern with South American components (maracas llaneras, cajon). The band plays melodic grooves similar to an African choir. In 2018 I began teaching kids in a private school in Manhattan, and basically I’m developing a world-percussion program with them. It has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my life, and this tune is dedicated to those kids who have become the best teachers I’ve ever had.
Solos: Ivan Renta (Flute), Samuel Torres (Kalimba)
6. Bolero Para Raquel – A bolero inspired on a bachata from Juan Luis Guerra (the reason that the main percussion part is on bongos) that I wrote for my wife – so it’s about love, happy moments, hard times, separation, come backs, a good bye, etc.
Solos: Joel Frahm (Tenor Sax)
7. Alegria – A Cumbia, but not in the traditional Colombian way, but more of what they call “Cumbia Chicha," that has elements of South American indigenous music, like Guaino. This composition has a contrasting, expressive section, but at the end it’s all about celebrating, happiness and dancing! Solos: Will Vinson (Alto Sax), Luis Perdomo (Piano)
8. Anga – Inspired on the traditional Cuban descarga, this is a tribute to our deep love for Afro-Cuban music, but especially to the memory of Miguel “Anga" Diaz. He was very important in my development as a musician, not only because of his playing, but also because he gave me the opportunity to hang and play with him. When I was a teenager in Bogota, I went through a period of time of feeling insecure about becoming a percussionist. I felt that maybe I didn’t have it in me . . . truthfully I wanted to be black and from the Caribbean. Some friends told him how I was feeling, and he hugged me and told me that when we jammed I touched his soul and that I should never doubt myself, but continue studying the congas. I shared the stage with him on many occasions (the last time in Spain just weeks before he passed away), and we always had a special master-alumni relationship. Solos: Marshall Gilkes (Trombone), Ivan Renta (Baritone Sax), Samuel Torres (Congas)
More on Samuel Torres: When the imposing talents of one of today’s most versatile Latin jazz artists melds 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. Born in Bogata, Colombia, and raised in a bustling and culturally sophisticated metropolis where jazz and classical music share the stage with salsa and an infinite variety of Colombian folkloric idioms. Torres' earliest exposure to music came at home, thanks to an extended family of musicians and easy access to a wealth of Colombian genres and styles that reflect a range of African, indigenous and European influences.
By age 12, Torres was performing with various 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., the resourceful young artist had become an established figure, backing leading Colombian performers while serving as an arranger and music director for his country’s highly regarded telenovelas and films.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 1999, following in the footsteps of his uncle Edy Martinez (who had risen to fame in the New York City salsa scene in the early 1970's as a pianist and arranger for acclaimed conga player, Ray Barretto - also a major influence), Torres took the scene by storm, quickly becoming an in-demand sideman and valued collaborator for 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 such as Berlin Symphoniker, City of London Sinfonia, The Boston Pops, Bogotá Philharmonic, Medellín Philharmonic, Delaware University Orchestra, The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony.