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Manuel Valera: The Planets

Read "The Planets" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera is not unknown to jazz-heads who make it their business to listen and champion. But, since his acclaimed 2004 debut Forma Nueva, a couple of Grammy nods, and last year's quietly brilliant The Seasons, Valera's name and exciting blend of culture, tradition, and progression has spread deservedly like wildfire through the larger audience. The Planets ramps up the forward rate of spread. Ranging fiercely across the 88s like peak McCoy Tyner--fanciful, fluid chromatic runs ...

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Manuel Valera Trio: The Seasons

Read "The Seasons" reviewed by Edward Blanco

Offering his twelfth recording as a leader, Grammy-nominated pianist Manuel Valera unveils a dynamic session of modern jazz on the vibrant The Seasons and follow up to Live at Firehouse 12 (MAVO Records, 2015). The album also happens to be the second date with his current working trio of jazz luminaries' bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer E.J. Strickland providing one of the most powerful piano trios in the jazz world today. The main theme of the session is the four-part ...

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Manuel Valera & Groove Square: Urban Landscape

Read "Urban Landscape" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Cuban keyboardist and composer Manuel Valera presented last with a scorching trio set Live at Firehouse 12 (Mayo Records, 2015). Acoustic and organic, Valera demonstrated is bona fides with mainstream jazz performance. Bringing drummer E.J. Strickland from that and earlier bands, Valera moves into a new project with a new band, Groove Square. He adds the ubiquitous bassist John Benite to the mix making for a solid rhythm section for Valera to compose and perform over. Decidedly adult contemporary, Urban ...

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Manuel Valera Trio: Live at Firehouse 12

Read "Live at Firehouse 12" reviewed by Edward Blanco

Leader of the Latin jazz-styled group New Cuban Express, New York-based, Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera, unveils his 10th album as leader and his first recording in a live setting with the untypically non-Latin Live at Firehouse 12, his first trio format release in six years. This, very excellent trio features jazz luminaries Hans Glawischnig on bass and veteran EJ Strickland on the drums--all together forming one solid power threesome. Recorded at the renowned New Haven, CT club, Firehouse 12, a ...

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Manuel Valera Trio: Live at Firehouse 12

Read "Live at Firehouse 12" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Cuban pianist Manuel Valera readily extends the jazz language of his predecessors Bebo and Chucho Valdes. He is comfortable leading all band formats from septets (In Motion (Criss Cross, 2014) to solo performance (Self Portrait (Self Produced, 2014). Valera may presently be found fronting an exceptional trio performing Live at Firehouse 12. Orchestral or symphonic best describes Valera's pianism. His command of the complete keyboard; his ability to effect emotive arrangements with cogent beginnings, middles, and ends; ...

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Manuel Valera: Self Portrait

Read "Self Portrait" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

On Self Portrait, Grammy-nominated pianist Manuel Valera's first solo piano outing, the artist displays a supple and exquisite touch on his instrument, reflecting the erudition and precision of his classical background. This is worth saying right off because Valera is best known for his vivacious Latin jazz ensemble outings, New Cuban Express (Mavo Records, 2012) and Expectivas (Mavo Records, 2013). On this introspective set, Valera explores his classical influences with nods to Eric Satie, George Gershwin and Nicoloas ...

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Manuel Valera: Self Portrait

Read "Self Portrait" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Pianist Manuel Valera's New Cuban Express has pulled into the station for a pit stop, his band mates have stepped off the train to stretch their legs, and the conductor of said locomotive is now left to ponder his own existence in front of his controls. Such is the story that could be told to detail and dance around this pivotal point in Valera's career: the creation and release of his first solo piano record. Valera--a Cuban-born, ...

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Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express: Expectativas

Read "Expectativas" reviewed by Edward Blanco

A follow up to pianist Manuel Valera's 2013 Grammy--nominated New Cuban Express, his seventh album as leader, Expectativas continues the melding of Afro-Cuban rhythms with the modern fusion jazz sound fusing the two into a new form of jazz best described as “modern Latin fusion." Consisting of eleven originals and one cover, the project is a testament to Valera's compositional talents and his vision for the future Latin Jazz. As such, the approach is not all Latin-tinged as evidenced by ...

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Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express

Read "New Cuban Express" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

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). ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Manuel Valera: Yaoundé, Currents & Oscar e Familia

Read "Manuel Valera: Yaoundé, Currents & Oscar e Familia" reviewed by David Adler

Samuel TorresYaoundéBlue Conga2009 Manuel ValeraCurrentsMAXJAZZ2010 Oscar FeldmanOscar e FamiliaSunnyside2010 Cuban pianist Manuel Valera is throwing his weight around the jazz scene and having an impact on several different levels. He's a fine acoustic stylist but also a serious proponent of electric keys. He's a rhythmic hyper-modernist ...

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Manuel Valera: Vientos

Read "Vientos" reviewed by Jim Santella

Pianist Manuel Valera merges a classical woodwind quintet with his traditional jazz quartet on a whirlwind of original adventure and swing. His chamber jazz ambience has been influenced by classical composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Shostakovich but Valera has replaced the French horn from the classical idiom with a bass clarinet, giving a different texture to his ensemble. Five selections feature the jazz quartet alone--Joel Frahm (soprano and tenor saxophones), James Genus (bass) and Ernesto Simpson (drums)--while another ...

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Manuel Valera: Forma Nueva

Read "Forma Nueva" reviewed by Javier AQ Ortiz

Pianist Manuel Valera reminds me of the popularity Sonny Rollins had among music critics at the beginning of his career. Like Valera, the saxophonist entered the jazz scene fully developed. Valera, however, might take issue with such an observation, although his own productions to date would argue against him in that regard. Of those, Forma Nueva, from late last year, is the first. Valera is joined by bassist John Patitucci, drummers Horacio “El Negro Hernández and Bill Stewart, and saxophonist ...