Home New York Report Alexa Torres Quartet releases “In Situ”

Alexa Torres Quartet releases “In Situ”

In July 2022, Alexa Torres set out on a one-year trip to interview and collaborate with improvising violinists across Belgium, France, and Poland. Two prestigious awards funded her hybrid research and performance sojourn: The Presser Graduate Music Award and The Fulbright Grant. In preparation for this journey, Torres recorded her debut album, In Situ, to reflect internally on the sound cultures that shape her personal musical milieu before turning her gaze externally to new soundscapes.
In situ is an archaeological term that refers to the original position of an artifact found in place. When I was 21, I spent five weeks excavating Maya ruins in the Belizean jungle. We spent 8 or 9 hours a day digging in the wet dirt, often without finding much. But I remember the sense of awe I felt when I finally dug up an artifact. It was a scraper – a type of tool carved out of stone. As I held it, I thought about how I was likely the first person to touch it in over a thousand years. I imagined stories about the people who had used the tool before me so long ago. I wanted to bring that very particular feeling of awe to this album. The term in situ evokes a sense of rediscovery and recontextualization, which I think plays a big role in improvisation. It also conveys a connection between the past, present, and future. Artifacts found in situ represent a material culture which we use to construct narratives of the past to understand our present and our future better.”
This sense of temporal connection is reflected musically through the textures, improvisational languages, and timbres of In Situ. With a blended acoustic-electric violin sound, Torres’s be-bop lines intertwined with modern diminished and altered vocabulary float over guitarist Wellman’s bright, distinctly contemporary voicings. Further mirroring Torres’s goal of bridging past, present, and future, In Situ brings together original compositions and contemporary arrangements of jazz standards. The result reflects an intimate engagement with jazz idioms and with Torres’s own Latinx heritage by synthesizing Latinx rhythms, modern jazz devices, and improvisation.
“I recorded this album right after I had finished my master’s degree in jazz violin from The University of North Texas. It was a real transition moment – I was preparing to leave the country for an extended period, I was in the process of moving, and my future was uncertain. And I wanted to use this record to sit in that liminal space between where you are coming from and where you are going. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to reflect not just on this deep digging into jazz traditions I did in my master’s and what it means to try to transfer these traditions to the violin but to move further into the past to also reflect on my Cuban heritage, and on the years I spent living and performing in Chile. I saw this album as an excavation of my past and a deeply personal, multilayered syncretism. When I say this, I see it as integrating the physical spaces I’ve occupied, the various soundscapes I’ve encountered, and uniting my research and performance practices.”
In addition to being a professional improvising violinist, Torres is a music researcher with a background in cultural anthropology. “I view my work as an ethnographic researcher and my performance practice as an improvising violinist as intrinsically connected. They mutually inform each other.”
Torres was awarded the Austin Live Music Grant to support the release of In Situ. The album will be available on all streaming platforms on June 14th, 2024. Immediately following its virtual debut,  In Situ is set for a live release concert on June 15th at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin, Texas. Torres has teamed up with the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin, TX, to offer a community-centered performance that is free to the public, which additional summer release performances in New York City and Austin, TX, will complement.
In December and January 2023-2024, Alexa performed a pre-release tour of In Situ in Chile. Alexa played in Valparaiso and Santiago during the tour, performing at some of the country’s top jazz clubs, such as Thelonious Lugar de Jazz.
“My four years living in Chile were formative for me. I did a lot of growing up in Chile. I learned a lot about myself and what I want in life and music. And so much of this album is about connecting different spaces and times important to me, so I was thrilled to do that conceptually and physically by performing this album in Chile with some great friends and musicians.”
Torres’s violin is supported by a rhythm section of talented musicians: Mario Wellmann on guitar, Josh Newburry on bass, and Jordan Proffer on drums. Weaving an aural landscape that is personally and historically grounded, In Situ sculps a sonic bridge between the past and the present, tradition and innovation, and musical idioms and cultures.
About Alexa Torres
Alexa Torres is a Latinx improvising violinist with a background in jazz. She is a performer, band leader, and ethnographic music researcher based in New York City and Austin, Texas. Musically, she seeks to cultivate improvisational and compositional styles that are both historically and personally rooted, embodying a dialogue between tradition and innovation in modern improvised music. She recently recorded her forthcoming debut album entitled In Situ
Throughout her musical career, Torres has performed in the US, Latin America, and Europe and shared the stage with renowned Grammy-winning artists such as Kurt Elling and Mon Laferte. She has played in a diverse array of venues and festivals, including Carnegie Hall (NYC), Teatro Caupolicán (SCL), The Elephant Room Jazz Club (ATX), South by Southwest, and Festival Internacional Django Reinhardt Chile.
From 2016 – 2020, Torres worked as a free-lance violinist in Santiago, Chile, performing regularly in the city’s jazz, fusion, and popular music spaces. During this musically formative time, Torres consistently collaborated with big names in Chilean music. She opened for one of the country’s most well-known musicians, Anna Tijoux, for the debut of Tijoux’s project Roja y Negro and played regularly with Rulo from Los Tetas for presentations of his folk-pop album Vendaval. Torres also performed with Mon Laferte as part of the Chilean leg of her international Amárrame tour. In 2020, the album Mundo Zero, on which Torres recorded as a core band member of Ensamble de Luz, was nominated for the prestigious Chilean Premio Pulsar award (the Chilean equivalent of a Grammy).
Breaking new ground in improvised strings, in 2022, Torres became the first woman and violinist to graduate from the University of North Texas (UNT) Jazz Strings program. At UNT, she obtained a Master of Music in Jazz Performance in the acclaimed Jazz Studies department. She completed coursework in jazz violin with Scott Tixier, improvisation with Dave Meder, Davy Mooney, and Philip Dizack, and jazz arranging with Rich Derosa. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Jazz Performance at New York University, fully funded by the competitive five-year Steinhardt Fellowship. There, she’s had the opportunity to work with jazz luminaries like Dave Liebman and Sara Caswell.
Torres views her ethnographic and performance practices as reciprocal; her research deeply informs her playing as she aims to construct a musical lexicon that temporally connects the past, present, and future. Torres’s research has been published in peer-reviewed music education and social sciences journals. In addition to her MM in jazz performance, Torres holds a BA with a triple major in cultural anthropology, plan II honors, and Latin American studies from the University of Texas, Austin. Her research and performer work has been recognized by competitive awards such as the Fulbright Grant, the Presser Graduate Music Award, the Austin Live Music Grant, and the Steinhardt Fellowship.
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A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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