Cuban Jazz Pianist & Composer Manuel Valera Makes Impressive Recording

Cuban jazz pianist Manuel Valera makes his impressive recording debut as a leader with the release of “Forma Nueva” (MAVO Records 1101), an authoritative set of post-bop jazz with Latin overtones that showcases his impressive skills as an instrumentalist and composer. The self-produced session of original material — which features the all-star line-up of bassist John Patitucci, drummers Bill Stewart and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and saxophonist Seamus Blake — heralds the arrival of a notable new jazz talent in no uncertain terms. In his liner notes to the CD veteran jazz journalist Howard Mandel writes: “It’s an unalloyed pleasure to discover a young man so accomplished that his potential seems boundless…Manuel Valera promises, and indeed delivers, throughout “Forma Nueva.”

Born in Cuba on October 17, 1980, Valera, who is the son of the noted Cuban saxophonist Manuel Valera, Sr., lives in New York City where his gift for integrating stylistic elements of his homeland’s rich musical tradition into a modern jazz context has earned him a prominent place at the forefront of the current generation of emerging artists active on the scene there and is establishing him as rising star on the international stage as well. It’s astonishing – upon listening to the mature and original playing and writing displayed on “Forma Nueva” to realize it was only in 1994, after he emigrated to the US, that Valera switched to the piano from the classical saxophone he’d studied at Havana’s Conservatory Manuel Saumell. It’s equally remarkable – hearing the CD’s dynamic fusion of modern jazz with various Latin music styles — that Valera only began composing in 2000 while enrolled in the jazz of the New School University in New York from which he graduated in 2003 with a degree in performance. He has also studied with Reggie Workman, George Garzone, Jane Ira Bloom, Gerard D’Angelo and Richie Bierach among others. In April 2004 Valera won 2nd Prize at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, FL

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