Jazz flutist Nestor Torres was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where he was inspired by people like Cal Tjader, Dave Brubeck, and Tito Puente. He began studying flute at age 12. Torres' father, a talented musician, bought him a drum set when he was five. His playing incorporates a smorgasbord of Latin jazz, pop, straight-ahead jazz, and classical styles. After high school, he moved to New York with dreams of finding work with a profusion of Latin jazz bands. After realizing his skills as a flutist needed more honing, he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. He also studied with John Wummer at the Mannes School of Music. In 1977, he graduated and returned to New York City, heady with his new diploma. He sat in with his mentors like Puente and Eddie Palmieri but also worked with a variety of lesser-known charanga (traditional Cuban) groups. In New York, Torres recorded three solo albums that were praised in the underground, but not widely commercially available.
In 1981, he hooked up with Latin artists Hansel & Raul and moved to Miami. Torres was immediately accepted into the city's vibrant salsa scene, and he spent much of his time lecturing and performing on the college circuit in South Florida, as well as performing regularly at festivals and clubs in and around Miami. In 1989, Torres signed a multi-album contract with Polygram Records and released his first album for Verve/Forecast, Morning Ride. It climbed to the top of the contemporary jazz charts to become a Top Ten best-seller. Later that year, he had an accident in a celebrity boat race in Miami, crushing his upper body and damaging his powerful lungs. Then 34, he began a long recovery process before releasing Dance of the Phoenix in August 1991, finding strength by practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and serving as a member of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Dance of the Phoenix was an exotic mix of styles that took the listener through American, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban jazz. In 1994, Torres recorded Burning Whispers for Sony Latin Jazz, a newly formed label; albums like 1996's Talk to Me and 1999's Treasures of the Heart followed, with the latter recorded for Shanachie.
This Side of Paradise appeared in early 2001, followed a year later by Mi Alma Latina: My Latin Soul, which found Torres digging deep into classics by Tito Puente, Willie Bobo, Abel Pabon, and others. He delivered even more diverse offerings with 2004's hip-hop-accented Sin Palabras (Without Words) and 2006's ethnic fusion-leaning Dances, Prayers and Meditations for Peace. Three years later he delivered the sophisticated, Latin dance-oriented Nouveau Latino. From there, he kept busy appearing on albums by Dave Grusin, Ali Ryerson, and Keb' Mo'. In 2017, he returned with Jazz Flute Traditions and Del Caribe, Soy! Latin American Flute Music, his first album of classical music. ~ Richard Skelly