Zarabande is a feeling, a movement, a dance, and it is the troupe led by San Antonio musician and educator Alfredo “Toro” Flores, who will release his second full length album El Toro this Friday, Oct. 28 at The Squeezebox on North St. Mary’s Street.

The dynamic marimbaist, vibraphonist, and guitarist will be joined by the full ensemble, as they display the complexity and vivacity interwoven in the fabric of this album, a joyful ride upon a simultaneously ancient and contemporary sound. The concert is free and open to the public, and you can find all the details here.

Flores, now with a more slicked-back haircut versus his flowing locks that once rollicked about in torrents of percussive flurries, hasn’t lost a bit of the stuff that gave him his nickname.

“A friend of mine saw me playing and said ‘Aren’t you a Taurus?’ and I told him I was,” Flores said, smiling slyly. “So he called me ‘Toro,’ because he said I played with the power of a bull.”

Flores composed his first album on his own, and while he was pleased with it, this venture tested his musical boundaries and incorporated the skill sets of his co-conspirers.

“I wanted to make a very solid statement with compositions beyond my reach,” Flores said of the music for El Toro, which comes eight years after the release of his first effort. “So I asked composers Mark Little and Joe Caploe to write challenging music, pieces that would take months to master. Boy, did they do that.”

Both Little and Caploe, on piano and drums, respectively, on this album, are some of the most well-respected and sought after musicians on their instruments in the jazz scene and otherwise, prolific in their performance slate and composition rate.

“We both love Jimi Hendrix,” Flores said of Little, who has pushed him to work on more advanced harmonies. “Not many jazz folks I know are also into country, gospel, soul, and rock, and I enjoy playing with people who are not single-minded in jazz because I don’t consider myself a jazz musician. I just consider myself a musician and I love it all – you have to.”

While Flores is an exceptional guitarist, known for the levity of his sound and the effortlessness of his maneuvers and mellifluous motifs, his connection to the mallets has brought well-deserved attention to his percussive prowess. The marimba, in many ways, is a more robust xylophone with wooden bars, while the vibraphone maintains the xylophone structure boasting a double row of tuned metal bars above a tubular resonator that contains a motor-driven vane, giving the vibrato effect.

Toro in action at a 91.7 KRTU sponsored jazz event. Photo courtesy of Nicole Moore
Toro in action at a 91.7 KRTU sponsored jazz event. Credit: Courtesy / Nicole Moore

Audience members will witness Flores primarily with mallet in hand, as his sole focus on the album was to grow and transform that sound. If the band kicks in the way the album does with the tune “Ogun,” audience members best prepare themselves for a tidal wave of percussion that will transport them into a calypso-inspired world reminiscent of Chick Corea’s “Spain.”

They’ll also have a chance to breathe into the sonorous side of the sound with wispy walkabouts like “Praise,” but don’t stay down for too long because El Toro will be kickin’ up the dust once again.

While Flores has been playing in San Antonio for more than two decades – of which he spent a great deal of time as an educator – it’s mostly been in the corporate setting and at fancy clubs, which is great for the pocketbook, but not for the soul.

“What I’m really looking forward to is showcasing with the full band in a fun place,” Flores said. “The energy will be very high. We’ll go as long as they let us.”

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.