Hotshots: Flautist Nestor Torres [New Miami magazine]

By Hope Katz Gibbs
New Miami magazine
Photo by Donna Victor
Design by Kevin Jolliffe

AWARD WINNER: This article, part of our monthly Hotshots series, received a first place CHARLIE Award for Best Column from The Florida Magazine Association

EYES CLOSED, PASSIONATE ENERGYEMANATING from the silver flute he holds gingerly in his hands, Nestor Torres percolates to the rhythm of a cut from his latest album, “Dance of the Phoenix.”

Torres, 34, says he chose that name because he feels like a phoenix-the mythical bird that lived in the Arabian desert for 500 or 600 years before setting itself on fire, then rose from its ashes to start another long life.

It was May 12,1990, when Torres’ life went up in flames. A nearly fatal accident during a celebrity boating race left Torres with 19 fractured ribs, a concussion, a collapsed lung and two broken collarbones. For months, he couldn’t take care of himself, let alone play his beloved flute.

Prior to the accident, Torres had gotten his first taste of fame. He had just released his first album, Morning Ride, which quickly became a national hit. And when NBC’s “Today Show” was broadcast from Miami, Torres was a guest and got his first dose of network TV exposure.

Torres also found himself praised on the pages of Billboard magazine, the music industry’s leading publication. Billboard called Torres, “very sophisticated in his own right. His excellent music has all the flavor of its salsa roots.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Torres came to Miami in 1981 with a jazz group called Hansel Y Raul. “I never really thought of music as a job because it was always so natural,” says Torres, who started playing drums at age 5 and flute at 12. “It wasn’t until I came to
Miami with Hansel Y Raul, and I tried to do my own thing, that I realized how difficult it could be to make it. I didn’t realize it was really a job.-

During dry spells, Torres says he sold vacuum cleaners, worked in a tile warehouse, and “attempted to be a busboy. That lasted two days. I was too paranoid I would drop a tray on someone’s head.”

These days, Torres doesn’t have to worry about finding alternative means of income. He’s promoting his new album, playing at some of the honest jazz clubs in New York City. He’s also working on a symphonic piece that will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. And in November, he’s performing in the ninth annual Jazz Over Miami concert series at the James L. Knight Center.

“I want to do everything,” says Torres. “I’ve learned to appreciate life and to appreciate people. This is my second chance.”

Article update: Since this article was published in 1991, Nestor Torres released “Burning Whispers” in 1995, “Talk To Me,” in 1996, and “Treasures of the Heart,” in 1999. In 2001, he won a Latin Grammy for his CD “This Side of Paradise.” He followed that up with “My Alma Latina” (My Latin Soul), which was nominated for the Grammy as well.—HKG