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Samuel Torres Group: Forced Displacement

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Modern history is littered with the casualties of man’s inhumanity to man. Percussionist Samuel Torres was born in Colombia. Forced Displacement is a 10-part suite dedicated to “the victims of violence in Colombia caused by the ongoing conflict between guerrillas, paramilitary groups and the national army.”

The octet here includes leading figures of the current genre that mixes Latin jazz with edgy New York improvisation: trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, saxophonist Yosvany Terry, trombonist Marshall Gilkes. Torres’ suite is founded on bullerengue, and to pursue the fervent polyrhythms of this Colombian folkloric form he uses three sources of percussion: his own congas, Obed Calvaire’s traps and Jonathan Gómez’s five Colombian instruments.

The opening “Overture” is quiet, ominous drums, horns blended in a somber minor key and a simple theme like a moan of sadness. “Niño Pensante” also begins with the dark communal ceremonies of three drummers, before the ensemble enters like a sigh. “El Silencio Desplazador” beautifully recasts, in deeply layered voicings, the core motif introduced in “Overture.”

But not all of the suite is funereal. In tunes like “Las Canta’oras,” Torres celebrates the life force inherent in Colombian folk culture. Gilkes, Terry and Rodriguez all burn on this track. “Narrador de Espejismos” and “El Orgullo del Tambor” commemorate, ferociously, the courage of a people who find creative ways to resist oppression. The heart of Torres’ suite is rhythm, so it is appropriate that he takes “Finale” to himself for five minutes. After his flowing conga dissertation, the full ensemble materializes and softly reiterates the haunting motif that opened this rich, powerful album.

Torres is a percussionist with a genuine gift for piercing melody and provocative harmony. Forced Displacement takes its place with other great jazz odes of protest and mourning, like Amina Figarova’s September Suite, Charlie Haden’s The Ballad of the Fallen and Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Hiroshima.

Originally Published