Saturday, November 11, 2017

Nestor Torres' Jazz Flute Traditions on CD

It sounds really juvenile, I know, but my attitude toward jazz flute has been ruthlessly compromised by Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story. I suppose the jokes hit upon some ancient nerve, the one that suggest that a certain musical instrument might be unsuitable for a certain musical genre because it sounds a little too carefree, lightweight and capricious. I tend to agree with that, especially when I see a jazz release that prominently features someone on the flute.

I felt that twinge when I grabbed this CD and put it into the CD transport. My preconceptions were immediately kicked to the curb. Nestor Torres released this live album as a tribute to flutists such as Frank Wess and Moe Koffman who "were playing the instrument when it was still showing up in the 'miscellaneous' categories of major categories of major 1950s polls." (He's also focusing on more modern flute players such as Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws and Yuself Lateef.) These eleven standards, performed live, are bolder and more substantive than I could have imagined. While there is a rare moment or two that borders on cliche, this is a bold and rich release that redefines the instrument and shows it can be capable of gravitas and an infinite range of expression.

Torres and his band--pianist Silvano Monasterios, bassist Jamie Ousley, drummers Michael Piolet and Marcus Grant, percussionists Jose Gregorio Hernandez and Miguel Russell and alto saxophonist Ian Munoz--deliver these tracks in a sultry manner, one heavy with earthy and romantic themes. As you can see from the line-up, the focus is heavy on rhythm. But Torres' serious and passionate flute floats above the Latin percussion with an almost contradictory sense of freedom.

Sound quality is strong, even with the rather small audience sounding isolated and contained to the side. The sonic colors are warm and inviting--they ooze with a honest sexiness that can't be trivialized. Veronica Corningstone be damned...I like this one a lot.

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