6

Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express Pianist Manuel Valera has been liberally mixing and melding Cuban forms with modern jazz ideals since his first record—Forma Nueva (Mavo Music, 2004)—put him on the map, but his methods have changed and evolved. He expanded his aural framework by working a woodwind quintet into the musical fabric of Vientos (Anzic Records, 2007), which showed glimpses of his more reflective side, and he took standards to task, tackling the music on his own terms on the winning Currents (MAXJAZZ, 2009). Now, with New Cuban Express, Valera is finding joy in balancing Cuban traditions, fusion fashions, funky underpinnings and contemporary ideals.

Spicy grooves and scintillating solos surface frequently throughout this high-energy affair. Valera and his five feisty companions explore various avenues of music, but nearly all of it benefits from a strong injection of Cuban rhythmic charisma. The title track is a lively, but controlled thrill ride, a sunny and propulsive piano introduction launches "Upwards," odd-metered music and fusion trappings abound on "Choices," and breezy island living transformed into exotic nightlife is embodied in "Danzon."

While the album contains more than its share of winning music, the mid-album run from "Regards" through "Gismonteando" provides the most thrills. "Regards" mixes pure Cuban music with hints of Headhunters-style funk, "Poly" burns hotter than a five-alarm fire, "Intro To "Gismonteando" gives Mauricio Herrera a chance to raise holy hell with hand drumming and "Gismonteando" grooves with the best of them, and shines a light on guitarist Tom Guarna and bassist John Benitez.

The too-bland-for-its-own-good "Me Faltas Tu" and the brief "Interlude" are the only numbers that don't really measure up, but the other eleven tracks more than make up for it. Those who have repeatedly cited a Chick Corea influence in Valera's sound will still find it here, but it's only a small part of the overall makeup of the sound. New Cuban Express is a killer vehicle that rides the rails of excitement from start to finish. This is another home run for Manuel Valera.

Track Listing: New Cuban Express; Intro To Upwards; Upwards; Choices; Me Faltabas Tu; Regards; Poly; Intro To Gismonteando; Gismonteando; Interlude; Cinco Contra Tres; Danzon; Makuta.

Personnel: Manuel Valera: piano, Fender rhodes, keyboards; Yosvany Terry: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, chereke; Tom Guarna: electric guitar, acoustic guitar; John Benitez: bass; Eric Doob: drums; Mauricio Herrera: percussion.

Title: New Cuban Express | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Mavo Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Unification CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "Alpha Centauri" CD/LP/Track Review Alpha Centauri
by Mark F. Turner
Published: July 4, 2016
Read "Sea Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Sea Ahead
by James Nadal
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "Out Of The Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Out Of The Blue
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 4, 2016
Read "Moving Still" CD/LP/Track Review Moving Still
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "Neuroplastic Groove" CD/LP/Track Review Neuroplastic Groove
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "Begin to Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Begin to Dance
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 19, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.