Producer Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records is once again bringing Latin freestyle music to the stage via his Forever Freestyle 9 show which takes place in the Bronx, at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, on Saturday, March 7th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets for the popular show go quickly so fans should get to the box office before the show is sold out. Featured this year, will be Latin freestyle artists: TKA/K7, Judy Torres, The Cover Girls, Noel, Lisette Melendez, Rob Base, Soave, Coro, Nocerra, George Lamond Sugar Hill Gang. Also featured is Lucho, DJ Solo and The Whiteboy DJ KYS. Hosts for the show are Speedy and producer Sal Abbatiello.
The Queen of Freestyle, Judy Torres, took the time on a 27 degree winter day to chat with me. “The Freestyle show is always lots of fun. The Bronx fans come out at Lehman Center, and performing with my fellow artists always feels like we are getting together for an annual party. There is nothing like performing in the Bronx. I was born in the Bronx and lived there until I was 25. I had some of my best and worst memories there,” said the singer who attended St. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic school then eventually went on to Lehman College.
Ms. Torres reflected on the early days of her career. “I was obsessed about being a singer and I kept wondering why I hadn’t been discovered. I was a teenager but I performed in talent shows and occasionally in night clubs around my area, impatiently hoping someone would discover me. I was doing a gong show in a tiny club where the singers were supposed to sing badly but they all sang well. So, I decided to sing like Edith Bunker of the show All In the Family. A judge attempted to gong me but I was joking and the audience got that, so stopped him. After the show that same judge approached me stating he wanted to help me. He told me to give him 6 months to get me a paid gig. He advised me I needed original songs, so he introduced me to Micky Garcia who needed his songs recorded. I was given a song entitled Loves Going to Get You. One day, at an audition, I met a singer who didn’t like her song which was “No Reason to Cry.” I loved that song and she loved my song, so we switched songs. It took awhile for “No Reason to Cry” to pick up momentum because it wasn’t on the radio but eventually I signed with an independent label and then the song got air play. “No Reason to Cry” became my first hit single. I was 18. Later I went with Profile Records where I rerecord “No Reason to Cry” under a different mix and sound. I recorded another single called “Come into My Arms,” which did better than No Reason to Cry. Torres also recorded “Faithfully” which became a Number One hit. My career picked up. Bills got paid and I was able to help family,” said Judy recalling the excitement she felt when her song hit.
Many artists have sung, and written songs, that have impacted their lives. “Each song I sing has significance for me,” claimed the freestyle singer. “Come into My Arms” meant something to me because I co-wrote it and wrote it about someone who broke my heart. My mother told me to use music to help me feel better. I’ve noted that when going through some kind of angst, I write my best material. I think that is when I’m fully present in my feelings,” remarked Judy who in her free time goes into schools to talk with young people about self esteem and the damage caused by bullying. “I also do some acting when I am not singing and have recently started teaching Zumba classes in New Jersey,” mentioned the busy artist.
Ms. Torres recently married in October 2014 and now has a step daughter. “Marriage has been an adjustment but I love it. My step daughter is a wonderful girl and I love being a mother. I now have a family I didn’t think I was going to have,” remarked Torres who still hosts a show on WKTU from 3:00 to 8:00 pm on Sundays. Formerly her show featured mostly freestyle music but the station has since changed their format to top 40s.
Judy recorded a song in 2010 entitled “Stay” originally a county song told from the perspective of the other woman. Freestyle is at the heart of Judy’s recordings and she is grateful to Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records for keeping Freestyle music alive. “Although Freestyle has unfortunately left the radio waves for the most part, it has a devoted fan base. Therefore, Sal who was instrumental in creating the freestyle movement, has kept it alive by providing the venues where and singers who, fans can support via his Freestyle shows. So, whenever Sal calls I am there and enjoy being part of it. I believe I speak for all the freestyle artists when I say that we are grateful for our devoted fans,” said Judy earnestly.
Ms Torres will be part of the Freestyle Forever 9 at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 7th at 8:00 pm. Lehman Center is located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx where interested parties can get tickets at the Lehman Center Box Office by calling 718-960-8833 or by going on line at www.LehmanCenter.org. Lehman Center is accessible by #4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd. and is off the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway. Parking is $5.