5

Manuel Valera Trio: The Seasons

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
Although Manuel Valera originally staked his claim to fame as a "Latin jazz" pianist, it's fair to say that he has sought to transcend the constraints imposed by that label. On this release, the second by his trio with bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer E.J. Strickland, Valera displays just as much interest in drawing from the musical worlds of classical and pop, refracted through the general prism of post-bop, as anything immediately identifiable as "Latin" jazz. With a well-developed group sound honed during four years of partnership, Valera's trio ultimately moves beyond category altogether.

The album's title comes from a four-part suite Valera composed with inspiration from Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Rather than slavish imitation, Valera uses Vivaldi's concept more than his musical themes, as one is hard-pressed to hear any overt references to the original concertos. Instead, Valera uses the notion of the cyclical passage of time as a springboard for his own rich compositions—especially effectively in the fourth movement, "Winter," with the tune's poignant melody introduced by Glawischnig and accompanied with subtle Latin inflections on the toms by Strickland. Yes, there are Latin stylistic elements present throughout the record, but they're usually understated. Indeed, the album's most "Latin" composition, Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farres's "Tres Palabras," receives Valera's most classically-inspired performance, with gentle arpeggios and delicate pianistic flourishes that emphasize the lyrical dimensions of the song rather than its rhythmic aspects.

Of the trio's many strengths, perhaps its most distinctive is its percussive power, noticeable especially on the up-tempo numbers. Strickland is crucial in this regard, as his seemingly inexhaustible energy fuels burners like "Opening" and the band's charged version of Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Valera's own technique relies heavily on his forceful left hand, with the intensity of his chords and ostinatos serving as a foundation for his impressive right-hand flights. On the less rambunctious tracks, like Lennon & McCartney's "In My Life" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Valera's melodic sensibility shines and the band shows that it can offer beauty and strength in equal measure.

With well-chosen material expertly performed, this is a recording destined to help Valera shed the "Latin jazz" tag. Instead, let's be content to call him what he is: an abundantly talented and imaginative pianist. And leave it at that.

Track Listing

Opening; In the Eye of the Beholder; Tres Palabras; Hopeful; In My Life; The Seasons - 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.

Album information

Title: The Seasons | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Mavo Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

Summer Water
Scott DuBois
Nox
Nate Wooley / Liudas Mockunas / Barry Guy /...
Phoenix
Vasko Atanasovski

Popular

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.