Nestor Torres rocks Yoshi's Oakland

Latin flute player demonstrates mastery, creativity and style

Tuesday Night with the Nestor Torres Band
By Ken Vermes
July 25, 2013
When Yoshie dances, you know that the Club is rockin’.
Yoshie herself is one of the founders and namesake of the jazz club in Oakland and San Francisco. And when she comes into the club and dances, it is a statement of her joy in the music at hand. On this night, it was the Nestor Torres band, featuring Roger Glenn on flute, vibes and percussion. And Yoshie danced the whole night.
She had good reason to. It was Nestor’s first performance in the club. And anchored by a fabulous local rhythm section of Mark Levine, David Belove, Akira Tana and Danilo Paiz, this band cooked. One of the tests of a great jazz musician is when they can come into town, gather a group of our local players, and jump in front of an audience, head first. This approach is fraught with dangers. What if there are mistakes? What if everyone gets lost? What if the audience notices the sheer rawness of the music? None of this seemed to matter on this night. In fact some of the delays and on stage disorganization seemed down right wonderful, because it showed exactly how a master like Nestor can pull together a group as a leader. And the leadership is in pure presence on stage, control of one’s instrument, knowledge of the music, and sheer will power. All the great musicians seem to have this, the ability to just take over in a musical situation. Of course this takes many years of training and refinement.
Nestor is not all that well known in the states, but a great audience showed up to see him on a Tuesday night. He moved through a repertoire of Latin and Latin influenced tunes that were all tied to his marvelous verbal telling of the stories behind the music. Whether was wailing on a Mongo Santamaria tune, playing a gorgeous “Footprints” as a tribute to Wayne Shorter, or tackling one of his own pieces, Nestor led the band through a sparkling and always catchy series of beautifully crafted solos. But the real fun took place when local player Roger Glen grabbed his flute and the two jammed together, weaving rhythms, melodies and harmony in a gorgeous flute love fest. To see two flute players join forces like this is a very rare experience. Flute players do not typically travel or join together, although they occasionally put together a group for a short tour. So this opportunity to see two great players join forces was a very special treat.
For most of the night, Yoshie danced, weaved and moved in the back of the club. Most people probably missed seeing her. But for me, her delight perfectly framed the whole point of the evening. The wonderful, impromptu and on the spot creativity that Nestor and his band showed on this night, perfectly exemplifies the magic of seeing a show like this in a jazz club. The music was new, fresh, and full of surprises. So should it be. Thank you Yoshi’s for one of those most magical moments of musical joy. And thank you Yoshie for showing us the perfect reason to experience it.
Ken Vermes is a music writer and photographer; see him on Facebook

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