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From Woodstock to Shute Park

Bobby Torres played Woodstock with Joe Cocker in 1969. He also backed The Beach Boys, Etta James, The Captain & Tennille, and Tom Jones on tours across the globe during the ’70s and ’80s.

Now Torres, a conga drum player originally from the Bronx, will play “Showtime at Shute” in Hillsboro Thursday, July 25, with the Bobby Torres Ensemble, his Portland-based band. The group — which ranges from eight to 13 members — is famous for putting Latin flair on familiar tunes such as Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and “Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.”

The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Torres, 70, grew up with the sound of drums in his New York City neighborhood. The Latin-style percussionists would sit on the front stoops and play the drums late into the night. As a child, Torres loved to hear the beats.

“My parents’ bedroom was facing the street, and I would sneak while they were sleeping and pull the window open just so I could hear the percussionists playing,” Torres said.

Torres learned to play the drums and took some lessons in theory and technique. His break came when he went to see Joe Cocker play at a local theatre and Torres asked to sit in with the band. The gig became a regular thing for Torres, and he eventually joined Cocker on stage at Woodstock, the legendary music festival in upstate New York.

“It changed my whole life, believe me,” he said of getting to play with Cocker.

Torres went on to travel the world and ended up moving to Portland with his family, including four children.

Like Torres, several of his children have a love of music and have played with the ensemble. His daughter, vocalist and dancer Julana Torres, will join him for Showtime at Shute.

For Torres, music gives him fulfillment and a sense of satisfaction. Playing also allows him to achieve a peaceful and fluid state.

“Most people don’t realize the focus that musicians have,” he said. “You get in a zone, like a Zen thing.”



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