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 aloneJoel Frahm (soprano and tenor saxophones), James Genus (bass) and Ernesto Simpson (drums)while another seven pieces find them merged with the chamber ensemble.
Originally from Cuba, where he studied classical music as a saxophone major, Valera moved to New York where he switched to piano and immersed himself in the eclectic Big Apple musical arts scene. As a twenty-something jazz innovator, he's sure of himself and by integrating jazz and blues with classical winds, he's created a festive affair with plenty of soul. You can feel tango, mambo and rhapsody integrated with the swinging jazz textures.
The album's title means winds in Spanish and in his liner notes, Valera points out that he considered a double meaning when he put this album together, since his music has adopted a flowing, wind-like feel. The addition of oboe, flute, clarinet, bassoon and bass clarinet produces a clarion sonority that moves freely with ease. Throughout the session, Valera and Frahm float melodies that intertwine eloquently. The woodwinds do, indeed, lend a lovely blanket of sound that wraps up this recommended album with a sure twist of affection.
Track Listing: Vientos; A la Interperie; So You Say; Danz
Personnel: Manuel Valera: piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; James Genus: double bass; Ernesto Simpson: drums; Aaron Heick: oboe, English horn; Anne Drummond: flute, alto flute; Anat Cohen: clarinet; Charles Pillow: bass clarinet, English horn (8); Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.