Omar Torrez

Omar Torrez

 Venice, California, USA
BandRockLatin

Packing clubs from Seattle to Moscow, Torrez' music is post-modern rock, with Latin guitar virtuosity, deftly mixing Cuban, Mexican, and American blues and brewing a potent, exciting classic sound for the modern age.

Band Press

Omar Torrez records in Mexico with La Banda Mixteca – Latino Los Angeles Magazine

A Beautiful Collage of Sounds

Los Angeles-based Omar Torrez records in Mexico with La Banda Sinfonica Mixteca

Published on LatinoLA: March 7, 2011

Seattle-born Omar Torrez was touring on a big festival tour in his father's homeland of Mexico. While performing at the Barroquisimo Festival in Puebla, he learned about an interesting local orchestra called La Banda Sinfonica Mixteca ('Mixteca' is a tribe who live in the La Mixteca region, one of the poorest areas of Mexico). He heard that the Puebla state had formed this 43-piece band comprised of indigenous Mixteca people. In an effort to bolster the local economy through culture and arts, the people from Mixteca region were given the opportunity to receive lessons and instruments.

Torrez was intrigued. He wrote a grant proposal to the Mexican government, proposing to work with the Banda Mixteca to arrange and record a record combining elements of traditional Mexican, Cuban, Slavic and Roma music with contemporary American sound.

The point was to collaborate and record some traditional Mexican songs and some of Omar's original material, arranged and played by an international ensemble.

"The point of it," Torrez said, "is that we are so concerned, especially politically, definitely culturally, about what separates us, about being different. It was just one small step to break all that: 'Naw, let's get together and make music. The rest is all garbage. Just see what happens. I also wanted to let people in the world know what is going on culturally in places like La Mixteca – people working hard, creating beautiful things."

The grant was approved. In January, Omar took his band – including a Bosnian guitarist, a Cuban bass player, and an American drummer – and recorded 11 tracks with the Banda Mixteca. Three of those tracks include a chorus of 16 Mixteca children.

The result is a beautiful collage of songs recorded in Puebla's open auditoriums and historical theaters.

The music ranges from a magical reworking of the Mexican folk classic "La Llorona" to Torrez's stunningly virtuosic "Gypsy Dance" and even his own howlin' blues "Whisky in the Morning."

Torrez will release the 11 song CD in Mexico. He returns to the studio in the US with talented producer Tony Berg – who has worked with artists such as Ozomatli, Bob Dylan, Jesca Hoop and Aimee Mann – and will include some of these tracks on his own upcoming CD.

Torrez grew up as "the Latin Hendrix" in psychedelic Seattle, traveled to Spain to learn the music of the gypsies, rediscovered old blues in Egypt, and took off around the world with carnival master Tom Waits.

Omar Torrez is a traveler.

Distances crossed are in his blood. His heritage includes Spanish and Basque ancestry (via Mexico) as well as Norwegian, Native American (Aleut, from Alaska) and Russian. His parents were art students who met in '60's Seattle, and Torrez grew up there among painters, strong passions and psychedelic guitars. He emerged dramatically as a guitarist himself while only 20, taking the Bumbershoot festival by storm with an incendiary set of Latin-tinged virtuosity that left critics gasping.

The Los Angeles Times dubbed him "the Latin Hendrix" who was "a massive talent poised to break out and kiss the sky." But Torrez chose another course, one decidedly closer to earth. He took what he would later describe as a "sabbatical" from rock 'n roll to study and play the music of Cuba and the Andalusian gypsies. He travelled the world and studied under Cuban and Spanish guitar masters, and in doing so became a young guitar master himself.

He toured the world. When he arrived in Moscow, an influential music critic awaited. Artemy Troitsky, a member of the World Music Consortium, had identified Torrez as an important young musician early in the American's musical journey. But what he heard now made the Russian critic ecstatic.

"Omar Torrez is crossing many borders and establishing many unlikely links – between classical and pop, virtuoso and hot swinging, Latin and blues, European and American, sexy and pure…and doing all of this with style," Troitsky wrote.

Torrez returned to the United States and released a series of records, including 2008's The Beat Outside, 2009's Corazon de Perro, and last year's EP Top of the World.

Somewhere on a farm in Northern California, another traveler from the musical carnival was listening. Torrez was sitting in a café one day when his phone rang. He answered to hear the unmistakable voice of Tom Waits on the other end. Within days, he was whisked away. He joined the beautifully ramshackle circus that was the 2008 Tom Waits Glitter and Doom tour.

Musically, it now feels like a moment of culmination for Torrez. He is a fully formed and major artist prepared to make his own musical statement. And to do so, he created a larger orchestra of sort – a Kickstarter fan-based campaign called "Together We Will Create" will be funding his next recording with producer

Front page story - Omar Torrez – Easy Reader Newspaper - South Bay, CA

Flamenco virtuoso Omar Torrez returns to his rock & roll roots at the Boogaloo -

Omar Torrez was in Egypt when the electric ghost of his rock & roll past beckoned him home.

The guitarist had once been heralded as the “Latin Hendrix” in his hometown of Seattle. He emerged dramatically a decade ago when he took the Bumbershoot festival by storm with an incendiary set of Latin-tinged virtuosity that left critics gasping and grasping, daring to compare Torrez to perhaps the greatest rock guitarist of all time. The Seattle Times called Torrez “a massive talent poised to break out and kiss the sky.”

But Torrez chose another course, one decidedly closer to earth. He took what he would later describe as a “sabbatical” from rock n’ roll to study and play the music of Cuba and the Andalusian gypsies. He travelled the world and studied under Cuban and Spanish guitar masters, and in so doing became a young Flamenco master himself. In the course of his travels, Torrez landed in Cairo where he set up an impromptu gig.

As Torrez warmed up before the gig, a couple excited sound men approached him. They knew he was an American, and wanted to know about his music.

“You play blues?” they asked him.

“Well, yeah,” he responded. “‘In fact, I won the national Jimi Hendrix guitar contest a few years ago.’”

“Yeah! Cool!”

The Egyptians showed them their treasures – an incredible collection of vinyl records, rare old sides from blues greats like Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters.

“I’m like, who are these guys?” Torrez recalled. “And I started getting excited, ‘Man I want to play some blues!’ They had some Howling Wolf stuff I’d never heard before.”

And so when he played his set that night, Torrez found himself returning to his roots – rock and blues, the American music he’d cut his musical teeth on. As he played, he was struck by the excitement he saw on people’s faces. The music itself – so familiar but somehow new – felt like a kind of liberation. As he continued his travels, he kept mixing in blues and rock in his playing, and the results were the same everywhere he went – people responded viscerally to this most American of music.

When he arrived in Moscow, an influential music critic awaited. Artemy Troitsky, a member of the World Music Consortium, had helped bring Torrez to Russia previously. He had identified Torrez as an important young musician early in the American’s musical journey, but what he heard now made the Russian critic ecstatic.

“Omar Torrez is crossing many borders and establishing many unlikely links -- between classical and pop, virtuoso and hot swinging, Latin and blues, European and American, sexy and pure... and doing all this with style,” Troitsky wrote.

Torrez returned to the United States and last year released the results of his musical journey, an album called “The Beat Outside.” The album represents an almost new genre – psychedelic Flamenco soul rock, perhaps? – while simultaneously offering an historical tour de force, one that begins in about 1967 and leads most emphatically to the here and now.

Torrez, who plays Café Boogaloo tonight, said it’s good to be home.

“I had to go to Egypt to rediscover my American roots,” Torrez said. “You never know what is right in front of your nose until you go somewhere else, or you put your nose somewhere else. So the point is I’m glad I did this journey because I have this other knowledge now – flamenco music, and these crazy techniques, and all kinds of other flavors I bring to it. But I’ve got this Seattle-American blues kind of thing I can come back to, come home to.”

American story
As Barack Obama might say, Omar Torrez is a story that could only happen in America. Torrez’s ancestry alone is an American epic: his heritage includes Spanish and Basque blood (via Mexico) as well as Norwegian, Native American and Russian.

It all came together in Seattle in the 1960s when his father, an art student from Puebla, Mexico, met his mother, a Washington native. They were both painters studying at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Torrez’s earliest memories include holding onto his mother’s pony tails as he rode piggyback through campus. The family’s household was a gathering place for a vibrant, artistic community, and music was always in the air.

“It’s always been a very visceral experience for me,” Torrez said. “I could taste it, like great cooking – I could just taste the music. That was the affect it had on me. I could tell sometimes how it had an affect on other people. I remember my dad would have his friends around…They’d be playing records, and maybe the sun was out for once in Seattle, and they were smiling. I remember feeling what they were feeling and how wonderful it was. My father would bring a guitar to a party or camping and would sing songs. I just noticed it seemed just an integral part of life: you’d have to play and sing, otherwise something is wrong.”

He started playing pia

Omar Torrez ROCKS !!! – HollyScoop.com

Omar Torrez ROCKS !!!

After hearing rave reviews about Omar Torrez, we finally had to check this guy out.

Needless to say, he definitely lives up to his hype. He's got the Santana vibe down, but he rips guitar like no one we've ever heard.

For you Angelenos, Omar will be at Hotel Cafe on May 3rd. For everyone else, check out his myspace:

myspace.com/OmarTorrez

'Latin Hendrix' to Play KDNK Blues Festival – Aspen Times

CARBONDALE — Listen to a dose of Omar Torrez’s fingerwork on guitar and you’ll hear his family's influence. And a little Hendrix.

He plays flamenco, Latin funk, rock and blues with passion, eyes sometimes closed, his fingers a blur as they move across the strings.

“My father would always say music is the medicine for the soul. I really took to that,” Torrez said Monday from his home base of Los Angeles. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t turn out to be a juvenile delinquent. … For me, it was therapy growing up.”

Carbondale will get a taste of Torrez’s medicine when he performs at the sixth annual KDNK Blues and BBQ Fest on Saturday, Aug. 23, on Main Street. Torrez and his band will top off an event that begins with cooking demonstrations and barbecue at 3 p.m.

Performing alongside Torrez, from 7-9 p.m., is regular bandmate John Wakefield on percussion and keyboard, Roberto Vally on bass, and Donald Barrett on drums.

Torrez’s music is as varied as his heritage; he has Spanish and Basque (via Mexico), Norwegian, Native American and Russian roots.

Described as a guitar wizard and the “Latin Hendrix,” Torrez gained national acclaim when he won the National Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition about 10 years ago at the prestigious Bumbershoot Festival.

The award should come as no surprise — he was introduced to Hendrix’s work at an early age.

Torrez, half-jokingly, says he got his start in music “soon after my parents hooked up.” His mother was a singer, and his father was a Puebla, Mexico, native who played guitar and sang traditional Mexican rancheras.

Born and raised in Seattle, Torrez’s parents always had exposed the family to a variety of music, including Hendrix.

Torrez first started playing music with piano lessons at age 8, but it wasn’t until he grew a bit older and became obsessed with the electric guitar that he actually started playing with “feeling.”

“I saved my paper route money to buy a guitar. I took to it pretty fast,” he said of his teen years. “I pretty much locked myself in my room for two years in early high school.”

He “discovered girls” and changed his focus for the latter half of high school, then went on to study literature at college. But the guitar remained in his life and he continued to play, and his passion for creating music was unmistakable to those around him.

“Everyone always knew what I would do … except me. I was always playing,” he said.

His talent was recognized by musical poet and balladeer Tom Waits, who hand-picked Torrez to play guitar on Waits’ recent southern U.S. and European tour.

“They play with race-car precision and they are all true conjurers. They are all multi-instrumentalists and they polka like real men,” Waits said about his co-musicians in a National Public Radio interview.

Torrez returned Aug. 1 from the tour.

When it comes to songwriting, John Prine and Waits are his role models, so it was life-changing for Torrez to see Waits in action every night for two months.

“Now I have higher standards for myself. Trust me, after my Tom Waits experience, I’m going to be changing some things,” he said, explaining that now he’ll be aiming to “add a twist” to his work.

“For me it was like going to school in how to be unique. I was going to the University of Uniqueness. … Last year I was just shooting for quality. Now quality is not good enough.”

Torrez admits he’s aiming for perfection but also says he knows how to take it easy.

“I’m also extremely good at relaxing and debauchery — hanging out with friends, drinking great wine, eating great food,” he said, laughing.

Portland Podcast & Press ... – Mastan Music

The Omar Torrez Band
"Senorita" from the CD
'The Beat Outside'

The Omar Torrez band plays host to his Hendrix inspired licks. Not only was Omar influenced by Hendrix, he's a winner of the Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition in Seattle, WA, and includes a cover of "Little Wing" on his latest self released disc, The Beat Outside. "Dare we dub him the latin Hendrix!?" says the Los Angeles Times. Omar was also voted best band in Seattle by the Seattle Weekly.

The Band:
Omar Torrez- vocals, guitar
Dana Heitman- trumpet
Tige DeCoster- bass
Paula Fehrenbach- Cello
Josephine Vergara- Violin
John Wakefield- percussion, keys, string arrangements
Dale Fanning- drums

To hear more new songs from Omar Torrezs check out their The Omar Torrez Band Myspace Page

"If you enjoy great guitar playing ..." – WYCE Michigan

OMAR TORRE​Z BAND

The Beat Outsi​de
April​ 24, 2008

Omar Torre​z won the Natio​nal Jimi Hendr​ix Guita​r Compe​titio​n and has been dubbe​d as a Latin​ Hendr​ix,​ and he succe​ssful​ly blend​s rock,​ funk,​ blues​,​ and Latin​ music​ toget​her on this album​.​ "The Beat Outsi​de"​ is a happy​ fun song that will get you think​ing of summe​r days where​ parti​es break​ out in the stree​ts.​ Torre​z also cover​s Hendr​ix'​s "​Littl​e Wing"​ and is done well.​ "​Sadie​"​ is about​ being​ torme​nted by a forme​r lover​ and is worth​ a spin.​ "Say Goodb​ye"​ and "​Blue"​ are slowe​r tempo​ songs​.​ "​Sunsh​ine"​ is the singl​e of the album​.​ "​Senor​ita"​ is a live track​.​ If you enjoy​ great​ guita​r playi​ng you will enjoy​ this album​.​
--- Jerro​d Wille​a

Quick​ Links​:​
www. OmarT​orrez​.​ com
www. myspa​ce.​ com/​OmarT​orrez​

http:​/​/​www.​ grcmc​.​ org/​radio​

Tour reviews - Phoenix – various

"... new guitarist Omar Torrez... his off-beat solos and wildly unpredictable runs recalled old sideman Marc Ribot in the best way possible" -the3PenguinsBlogSpot


"…Omar Torrez a huge standout in the band with a flamenco guitar style along with VIncent on double sax, etc. Front row, section A…I will never be the same"-RollingStoneOnline

Portland Podcast & Press ... – Mastan Music

The Omar Torrez Band
"Senorita" from the CD
'The Beat Outside'

The Omar Torrez band plays host to his Hendrix inspired licks. Not only was Omar influenced by Hendrix, he's a winner of the Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition in Seattle, WA, and includes a cover of "Little Wing" on his latest self released disc, The Beat Outside. "Dare we dub him the latin Hendrix!?" says the Los Angeles Times. Omar was also voted best band in Seattle by the Seattle Weekly.

The Band:
Omar Torrez- vocals, guitar
Dana Heitman- trumpet
Tige DeCoster- bass
Paula Fehrenbach- Cello
Josephine Vergara- Violin
John Wakefield- percussion, keys, string arrangements
Dale Fanning- drums

To hear more new songs from Omar Torrezs check out their The Omar Torrez Band Myspace Page

Tour review - El Paso – El Paso Times

"New find Omar Torrez is another in a tradition of superlative guitarists to join Waits' band." - El Paso Times

Omar Torrez is the Real Deal – Wildy's World - Blogspot

Omar Torrez Band - The Beat Outside
2008, Omar Torrez

Omar Torrez is a virtual representation of what America should be. He is a blend of Spanish, Basque, Norwegian, Native American and Russian roots. Musically he has studied everything from Cuban styles to Andalusian Gyspy music to flamenco and classical guitar. He is also a winner of the National Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition at the Bumbershoot Festival. To top it all off he was chosen by rock legend Tom Waits to accompany him on his "Glitter and Doom" tour in the US in 2008. The Omar Torrez Band, in the meantime, delivers a funky-fresh release called The Beat Outside. This album is destined to be a classic.

Sunshine may be the brightest of the highlights here, mixing blues, Latin and funk into one delicious treat. This song screams for huge radio distribution. We Are lives on a quasi-reggae groove and treats with the differences and concomitant similarities of people who look different from one another. I'm Your Man shows off the chops that won Torrez the Hendrix competition. You almost feel like he's channeling Hendrix at times. Other highlights include Rich Man, the ballad Say Goodbye and the acid rocker Free Your Mind.

Omar Torrez is the real deal, from top to bottom. Like Omar Torrez, The Beat Outside dips so deeply into various ethnic and stylistic wells that it is ultimately nothing other than American, and a sterling example at that strong.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Tour review - El Paso – El Paso Times

"New find Omar Torrez is another in a tradition of superlative guitarists to join Waits' band." - El Paso Times

More tour reviews - Billboard, LA Times, Rolling Stone – Billboard, LA Times + more ...

TOM WAITS FAN BLOG:

"Omar was fantastic, in my opinion. He isn't afraid to play Ribot-style and the songs are
much better because he can pull it off. But he still adds his own touch and style to the
overall sound. I was shocked to not see Larry Taylor behind the bass."

ROLLING STONE.COM:

"THE BOWLER HAT seemed to take Tom and his unreal craack band to new heights. Tom out in front with enormous spastic energy and voice…Omar Torrez a huge standout in the band with a flamenco guitar style along with VIncent on double sax, etc. Front row, section A…I will never be the same."


3 PENGUINS BLOGSPOT:

"A beautiful flamenco intro by guitarist Omar Torrez led it in that, though it had little to do with the main section itself, was breathtaking enough that it didn't matter. The talented but shy guitarist of last night shone brighter today, feeling his way into bolder solos and riffs that eluded him before."


LA TIMES:

"Next up a recent live favorite among fans, Hoist That Rag off of 2004's Real Gone. Tom led it in with some hard-shook maracas, and it was the first show spot for new guitarist Omar Torrez. His off-beat solos and wildly unpredictable runs recalled old sideman Marc Ribot in the best way possible"

"Waits couldn't have picked a better guitarist to play with him" – Columbus show review

"Before I start raving about Tom Waits, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge his backup band. They were truly wonderful, and it wouldn't have been the same show without them. In particular, the guitarist and the reed man stole the show - or, at least, stole as much of the show as Waits let them have.
Omar Torrez handles a guitar like he's just releasing sounds that really want to come out - sounds that have been around longer than you or me, and which will continue to reverberate until long after we're gone. When he plays he doesn't even look like he's trying - he looks humble, unassuming and serene. His fingers are a blur and at times his sound carries the entire ensemble - and yet he manages to blend into the background as he plays. Waits couldn't have picked a better guitarist to play with him."


http://darkside.newsvine.com/_news/2008/06/30/1625071-concert-review-tom-waits-columbus-ohio-6282008

More tour reviews - Billboard, LA Times, Rolling Stone – Billboard, LA Times + more ...

TOM WAITS FAN BLOG:

"Omar was fantastic, in my opinion. He isn't afraid to play Ribot-style and the songs are
much better because he can pull it off. But he still adds his own touch and style to the
overall sound. I was shocked to not see Larry Taylor behind the bass."

ROLLING STONE.COM:

"THE BOWLER HAT seemed to take Tom and his unreal craack band to new heights. Tom out in front with enormous spastic energy and voice…Omar Torrez a huge standout in the band with a flamenco guitar style along with VIncent on double sax, etc. Front row, section A…I will never be the same."


3 PENGUINS BLOGSPOT:

"A beautiful flamenco intro by guitarist Omar Torrez led it in that, though it had little to do with the main section itself, was breathtaking enough that it didn't matter. The talented but shy guitarist of last night shone brighter today, feeling his way into bolder solos and riffs that eluded him before."


LA TIMES:

"Next up a recent live favorite among fans, Hoist That Rag off of 2004's Real Gone. Tom led it in with some hard-shook maracas, and it was the first show spot for new guitarist Omar Torrez. His off-beat solos and wildly unpredictable runs recalled old sideman Marc Ribot in the best way possible"