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 title suite referring to the season of the year as well as a hand full of well-known standards and many other highlights ranging from classical to Bolero's in style.
Starting off with the appropriately-titled "Opening," Valera establishes himself with some hard chords on the introduction and takes off on a fast-paced tare of a purely modern-styled romp accented by Strickland's strong stick and cymbal work. The second track titled "In the Eye of the Beholder," seems to follow in the same vein but with a bit more straight-forward jazz texture though the leader is just as fluid in his performance. The Osvaldo Farres composition "Tres Palabras" (Three words), is a departure from the beginning pieces as this one, takes on a soft classical bent for one of the warmer tracks of the set.
One, of the many outstanding pieces of the recording is, the John Lennon/Paul McCartney classic "In My Life" where the pianist is at his best laying down beautiful lines on a pop standard that sounds almost new though the discernable melody gives it away. The Seasons four-part suite begins with the light "Mov I-Spring" and continues on the most ambitious track of the set with "Mov II-Summer" introduced by Glawischnig who later delivers an extended bass solo along with phrase by the leader and drummer as the trio pull for the best season here.
After the mellow "Fall" and brief "Winter" movements of the suite, the trio take on another standard and go about thoroughly transforming the Cole Porter classic "What Is the Thing Called Love" into a quick burner offering Strickland a forum to display his appreciable chops on the drums. The session closes on a more subdued note with a very nice rendition of the Leonhard Cohen song "Hallelujah" providing Valera with exquisite solo moments.
Pianist Manuel Valera and his world-class trio present an inspiring slice of modern jazz on The Seasons an excellent musical package that would be well received any time of the year. The music here affirms this artist's talents as both a performer and composer, more than justifying his various Grammy nods, well done!
Track Listing: Opening; In the Eye of the Beholder; Tres Palabras; Hopeful; In My Life; MOV I-Spring; MOV II- Summer; MOV III-Fall; MOV IV-Winter; What Is This Thing Called Love; Hallelujah.
Personnel: Manuel Valera: piano; Hans Glawischnig: acoustic bass; E.J. Strickland: drums.
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