Samuel Torres NYC All-Stars in Barranquillazz REVIEW

"I'll start with the big hit of the festival, on Saturday night. Percussionist Samuel Torres, a bogotano living in New York, came with a group whose name -- The New York All Stars -- might seem utterly generic except that in the context of Colombia, it suggested something else: a Colombian take on the New York scene. Torres is a percussionist of considerable ability and a good composer, and he came with something new. The band he brought was an A-team New York group with Brian Lynch on trumpet -- I'm a senior member of the Brian Lynch fan club -- and Joel Frahm on sax, John Benítez on bass, Manuel Valera on piano, Ralph Irizarry on timbal, and, causing some excitement among Barranquilla jazzheads, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, with Torres standing in the center behind four congas. If you know those guys and what they play like, you can imagine how good it was. The high point of the set was "Un Atardecer en Cartagena de las Indias," with an extended crowd-pleasing solo on a pair of Colombian maracas llaneras. Later he played an mbira solo that was pianistic like i've never seen anyone do.

The quality of the playing apart, the success of Torres's set stemmed from the way it was both from outside and from Colombia. The band had two Puerto Ricans, a Cuban, two Midwestern gringos, an African American and a Colombian. That is, it was a New York band. But it was a different way to use a New York band. In all my years hearing Latin jazz in New York, I don't believe I've ever heard a Colombian bambuco. It was something from outside Colombia, but at the same time local. And just plain exciting music by really good cats in peak form. They haven't recorded this material yet, so watch out when they do. It's been road-tested." Ned Sublette