Years of study and travel are blessings not afforded to many. It is precious when the results of these blessings are channeled by an artist into genuine and heartfelt statements. For pianist/composer Álvaro Torres, globetrotting and absorbing musical information from around the world has led him to the root of music’s importance to him, namely emotional expression. Torres’s new recording, Heart Is The Most Important Ingredient, provides a perfect example of the pianist’s affecting art.
Torres began his classical piano study early in his hometown of Madrid, Spain. As a teenager, he discovered jazz and improvisation. After graduating from the Centro Integrado de Música Padre Antonio Soler, Torres moved to Nepal where he studied Hindustani music and taught at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory. He then went to Barcelona where he studied at the Conservatori del Liceu, staying in Barcelona for six years.
An exchange program allowed Torres to attend the University of North Texas, and a European Jazz Masters program, through an AIE scholarship, provided a six month stay in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though Torres discovered free improvisation in Barcelona, it was in Copenhagen that he met drummer and scene booster Kresten Osgood. The ever-busy Osgood introduced Torres to an incredibly active and creative improvisation scene and opened the pianist’s eyes to a number of different musical philosophies and practices.
The sound Torres’s had been trying to cultivate really began to come together in Copenhagen. The pianist had been negotiating his shared interests in classical music, jazz and improvised music. In 2019, Torres released a trio recording, Specious Present, that was a tribute to the music of Paul and Carla Bley, utilizing brief compositional ideas to build improvisations around.
In Copenhagen, Torres recruited Osgood and Swedish bassist/inventor Joel Illerhag to record a collection of loose tunes and improvisations in January 2020. The work that the trio put down shows the evolution of Torres’s music, stylistically and emotionally. Amazed at the quick absorption of his music by the Scandinavian rhythm section, Torres trusted them to provide fresh points of view for his compositions without unnecessary direction.
The recording begins with “Krescendo,” a dedication to Osgood that puts his hard-driving percussion against a layer of impressionistic piano and bass. The warm “Heart” is a patient piece that develops a simple, short melody into a thoughtful play of tones. Osgood’s brash drums introduce the brightly hued “The Good Life,” an Ornette Colemanesque, swinging piece that exudes joy. Illerhag’s resonant pizzicato bass provides the tonal center for the mysterious and spare “Most,” while the bassist’s bow work and Osgood’s off-kilter percussion provide a haunting backdrop for Torres on the fully improvised “Taken.”
“Granted” is a sprightly played solo piano piece by Torres which leads to the elastically metered “Desire,” where textures and intensity shape a dramatic performance. The quietly tumultuous “Departure,” which continually churns and builds, was the first piece the trio recorded. The short, hectic head of “Ingredient” takes its cues from Carla Bley and is a change of pace from some of the moodier improvisational pieces. The recording concludes with “Dreams In Music,” a solo piano piece that plays around with a brief musical idea, inspired by Torres’s own dreams, where he can have full, meaningful conversations using music alone.
Though he is now based in New York City, Álvaro Torres’s time in Copenhagen was foundational in his development as a musician. It provided him with inspiration and fantastic partnerships with Kresten Osgood and Joel Illerhag, which generated his sincere and fantastically played recording, Heart Is The Most Important Ingredient.
released June 3, 2022
Álvaro Torres - piano
Joel Illerhag - bass
Kresten Osgood - drums