June 18, 2021
Willy Torres has music running through his veins
Born in Trujillo Alto Puerto Rico Dec 31st 1975
Into a musical family and living in his grandparents farm, Willy was introduced to music life as early as 4 years old. His dad William Maisonet (Papo Conga) was a world renowned percussionist and his mom Doris Torres was a singer.
After migrating to the United States (NYC) Willy started to sing in events by the age of 11 and shortly after was discovered by recording first call musicians Pablo Chino Nuñez and Willie Ruiz where he was introduced to the international music/Salsa World.
Willy is a multi instrumentalist, arranger, composer, producer that has toured the world and or recorded with artist like: Ricky Martin, Alexander Pires, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Christian Castro, Victor Manuelle, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and his own projects Willy Torres Salsa Project and The Willy Torres Orchestra to name a mild few in his 30 year career.
Willy is considered a #1 call for most recording sessions around the world and has participated in winning 4 American Grammys and have been a part of projects/albums that have won numerous Latin Grammys.
In the last couple of years even with the Pandemic COVID 19 Willy has been active and able to record sessions, arrange and produce not only for himself (Album “On Another Path”) but also for people like Victor Manuelle, Allen Alejandro, The New Swing Sextet, Bomplenea and also work fluently with amazing companies in demand like Columbia Records, Sony Records, Element Music and Silver Pro Entertainment to name a few as Musical Director, Music Producer, recording Engineer and arranger/composer.
Willy plans to keep up his musical endeavors till the day he is called to the next life.
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Willy was fortunate to have come from a musical family; his mother is a singer and his father a Latin percussionist and vocalist. Before the family left Puerto Rico, Willy had begun studying the conga drums with his father and his father’s friend, Ramón Azor, at only four years old and soon began accompanying his father to his gigs and from time to time playing the congas. Other notables who Willy attributes to having helped him with his early musical development were Freddy Kenton, Porfirio Morel and his grandfather, Ramón Torres. Sometime in the mid 80s, the Torres family moved to the Bronx, New York.
As for Willy’s singing ability, while he was still attending high school his first efforts as a soloist were with a band formed by his uncles, Nelson and Juan Ramón (Monchi), called Los Hermanos Torres. Initially, Willy played the saxophone for the band and his uncles began teaching him how to be a band leader. Since Monchi, the band’s lead singer, was very busy during this time, he had difficulties finding the time to learn all the songs. So, the co-leader, Nelson, who at the time was also the bass player for La Majestad, informed the leader and composer of La Majestad, Miguel Maldonado, that he was looking for a singer to accompany Monchi. Maldonado suggested that they try using Willy. Nelson took Maldonado’s advice.
Around 1989, Maldonado’s band, Orquesta Majestad, lost its lead singer and Maldonado, who by then knew of Willy’s burgeoning success on lead vocals, offered the position to Willy; which Willy gladly accepted. So it was then, in 1989, that Willy made his first professional debut and would record four songs with Orquesta Majestad. Also during this time frame, Willy had the opportunity to sing with Larry Harlow, and with Johnny Ray’s orchestra, Salsa Con Clase. When one considers that during this time in Willy’s life, he was still attending high school, while learning songs, playing the saxophone and writing music,, it is clear that Willy had a high level of determination, persistance and ambition!
After his work with Larry Harlow’s Latin Legends Band, many doors were open for Willy. From there, he worked with a long list of salsa royalty, including, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Johnny Rivera, Domingo Quiñones, Ray Sepulveda, and Conjunto Clásico, just to name a few.
In 1993, Willy was recommended and later offer a position as a backup singer with Victor Manuelle. However, this meant that he would have to move back to his native Puerto Rico. After giving the proposition some consideration, Willy made the move and would remain in Puerto Rico, and very busy, for about five years.
Towards the end of 1998, after leaving Manuelle’s orchestra, Willy had desires to produce, arrange, coach singers, record cds and open his own recording studio and production company. To achieve these goals, Willy returned to New York. While working on his new goals, Willy continued to record with another long list of very talented producers, including Sergio George, Pablo “Chino” Nuñez, William Ruiz, Ramón Rodríguez, Guillermo Calderón, Julito Alvarado, Osvaldo Pichaco, Omar Alfanno, Luis Cabarcas, Mike Rivera, Edwin Sánchez, Paul Simon, Robby Rosa, to name a few, and with artists such as Johnny Ray, Ray Sepulveda, DLG, Huey Dunbar, George Lamond, Frankie Negrón, Van Lester, Junior González, Joe King, Luis Damón, Rey Ruiz, Ley Alejandro, Alexandre Pires, Ricardo Montaner, Ricky Martin, Chayanne, Carolina La O, Brenda K. Starr.
In 2003, Willy received what would turn out to be a very fortuitous phone call from Oscar Hernández, who at the time was looking for a sub for Hermán Olivera for a couple of dates. Willy gladly accepted the offer and found himself soloing as well as singing alongside master soneros Ray de la Paz and Frankie Vázquez. This would mark the beginning of Willy’s international exposure.
In 2008, Willy collaborated with DJ Henry Knowles to produce the album, Back on the Streets – A Taste of Spanish Harlem, which was the comeback album of New Swing Sextet.
Also in 2008, and also co-produced by DJ Henry Knowles, Willy released his first solo album called, Lo Que Traigo Yo – Willy’s NYC Salsa Project, for which he wore the hats of musical director, producer, composer, conga player, bongo player, lead vocalist, recording engineer and even arranger for some songs. The project is a mixture of four of Willy’s original compositions, “Baila con sabor,” “Lo que traigo yo,” “Si te preguntan” and “Fajardeño pa’ mi tierra,” and revamped covers of classics such as Joe Cuba Sextet’s “A Las Seis”, Héctor Lavoe’s “Rompe Saragüey”, Tito Puente’s “Yambeque” (made famous by La Sonora Ponceña) and El Gran Combo’s “La Muerte”. Amazingly, this album was recorded by a total of only six musicians, including Willy, yet has the powerful and swinging sound of a much bigger band! It is an amazing production for sure!
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Sonia Kyriacou. (Host). (2021, June 18). Willy Torres has music running through his veins [Audio podcast episode]. In Choreograph Your Life with Sonia Kyriacou. Parcast. https://soniakyriacou.com/willy-torres-has-music-running-through-his-veins/