From Rhythms of My Soul, Part II
By Chico Alvarez
A true master of the timbal, Hector Mauroza Torres was born in San Germán, Puerto Rico and was brought to New York City as an infant. He grew up in the Chelsea section of Manhattan (specifically, the area once known as "Little Spain" - a virtual breeding ground for talented musicians and composers.)
It was there that the young Torres began playing percussion instruments at the age of four. His family was quite musical, as it included various aunts, uncles, and cousins who played either string or percussion instruments (or even sang in the neighborhood parties). His father, Hector Torres Sr., was a musical artisan who handcrafted marlmbulas, claves, guiros, and assorted hand drums. At an early age, the elder Torres encouraged his son to pursue a professional career in music. The younger Torres' enthusiasm and love for Cuban and other forms of Latin-American music led him to perform with various aggregations around the city. Among his multiple credits, I would have to include his collaborations with Ray Barretto, José Fajardo, Gene Hernandez & Orquesta Novedades, Conjunto Mayombe, Grupo Cache, Conjunto Nabor!, Sonido Isleño, Sunrise, Moonrats, Rey Saba, lyasón, Charanga Kreacion, Fuego 77, Son Moderno and Orquesta La Sorpesa.
I met Hector Torres in 1974, at a basement jam session on 15th Street. At first, he seemed like a shy and timid individual, but I soon realized that when it came to performing and executing the intricate polyrhythms of Cuban music, he was as aggressive and fierce as any other player. And when he told me that Orestes Vilató was his favorite timbalero, I knew he had to have his act together. I was so taken by the feel he had for the music that I included him on my own debut album "Con el Ritmo del Tambó".
Shortly thereafter, Torres became one of the main ingredients in the sizzling sauce that the Palomonte Afro-Cuban Big Band was cooking up in such New York nightspots as SOB's, La Maganette, or the ever-popular West Gate Lounge. Throughout the years, I have had the pleasure of working with Torres both in small group settings and in large bands. Always the consummate accompanist, his timing is impeccable and his volume is invariably at a desired level, but then again, he has never wavered in bringing the rhythm to the fore. He can be forceful, decisive and complex and show absolutely no vacillation in his solos. Hector Torres' determination in keeping the rhythm right in the pocket is a true sign of a pro. In recent years, he has been working on a regular basis with two groups, YeraSón and Vaya.