Nestor Torres

Mi Alma Latina: My Latin Soul

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Much like Gloria Estefan, whose hit "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" he covers here, the veteran Grammy-winning flutist from Puerto Rico has too often compromised his Latin roots in search of contemporary jazz success. This mostly extraordinary project proves that he's still in deep touch with his heritage, even if he's more or less interpreting Latin classics rather than digging deeper to write his own. While he's a bit restrained on the Estefan tune and romantic pieces like "Besame Mucho," he has a blast blowing his percussive, airy melodies on the many festive jam sessions. His cover of Santana's "Smooth" is slower than the original and a bit more tropical, romantic, and balmy than hard rockin' -- but irresistible nonetheless. Torres recalls his days as a young musician in the '60s with the strutting Willie Bobo street festival-flavored tune "Spanish Grease," interacting beautifully with Abel Pabon's dancing piano. His flute acts as pepper, then part of a brass section over the wild piano foundations of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." His flute swirling over Teddy Mullet's trumpet and trombone turns Tito Puente's "Ran Kan Kan" into a wild party that just ends too soon. It's all pretty amazing, but why didn't he get real hip and try to cover a Jennifer Lopez tune?

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