Nestor Torres, 'Sin Palabras (Without Words)'

Jazz Flute Master's Ode to Unspoken Joys of Melody

Nestor Torres

Nestor Torres courtesy Heads Up Records hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy Heads Up Records

Latin Grammy Award winner Nestor Torres can play a mean flute.

Born in Puerto Rico, Torres has been a fixture on the music scene for more than two decades, performing alongside jazz giants such as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and Latin music icons Tito Puente and Gloria Estefan.

His latest CD, Sin Palabras (Without Words), is a savory stew of Latin and R&B influences, played with classical skills and jazz inspiration. His music has been a staple on "smooth" jazz radio for years — yet Torres tells NPR's Tony Cox that his music isn't really jazz. He calls it "rich in melody, and soaked in inspiration."

Torres is a classically trained musician who took his first flute lessons at age 12. He says he gets his sense of melody and timing from playing Cuban dance music, or charanga. "In charanga, the flutist improvises a great deal — the focus of his solos are to make people dance," Torres says. "Even when I play today, my approach is still very rhythmic and melodic."

Torres says his biggest influence is Hubert Laws, the African-American musician who first fused together the disciplines of classical flute playing and improvisation. In some of the songs from Sin Palabras, Torres plays his improvised melodies over a hip-hop beat — a nod to the increasingly vibrant collision of old-school jazz and next-generation DJ stylings.

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