Cuban pianist Manuel Valera makes Western US debut

Cuban pianist and composer Manuel Valera will present music from his new Fresh Sound New Talent CD “Historia” and from “Forma Nueva,” his critically acclaimed October 2004 recording debut as a leader, in his first appearance in the Western US on Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23 at Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge, 930 Lincoln Street, in Denver. Valera will be performing with his trio featuring bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer Ernesto Simpson.

Admission to sets at 7 & 9 pm is $15/set and reservations can be made in advance by calling Dazzle at 303.839.5100. Valera’s appearance is being co-sponsored by MFA, Jazz Publicity & Promotion and Denver’s “Oasis In The City” Jazz 89 KUVO recently named major market jazz station of 2005 by JazzWeek Magazine.

A rising star on the international jazz scene, Valera was born in Havana on October 17, 1980 and is the son of the noted Cuban saxophonist Manuel Valera, Sr. It’s astonishing, upon listening to the mature and original playing and writing displayed on his self-produced recording debut as a leader Forma Nueva (MAVO Records 1101) 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 he 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. Valera 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 and is the recipient of a 2004-2005 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composers Award. He was also a finalist for the 2005 Jazz Journalists Association?s Emerging Artist of the Year Award.

Still in the formative years of his career, Valera has already played with Paquito D’ Rivera, John Benitez, Donny McCaslin, Claudio Roditi, Bobby Sanabria, Giovanni Hildago, Dave Valentin, Nelson Gonzales, Juan Pablo Torres, William Cepeda, Eddie Gomez and the Machito Orchestra. He can be heard at jazz clubs around New York City including The Blue Note, Birdland, The 55 Bar, Sweet Rhythm and Smoke and was September 2004’s Artist of the Month at the famed Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA. The Manuel Valera Quartet performed before the McCoy Tyner Trio during the opening night concert of the 2005 Hollywood (FL) Jazz Festival and his four sold-out concerts at 2005 Rochester Jazz Festival this past June were a high point of the event.

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Valera currently leads a “jazz/Latin” project incorporating jazz, world rhythms and classical concepts featuring Antonio SÔø?nchez (drums), Ben Street (bass), Seamus Blake (sax), Luisito Quintero (percussion) and a string quartet.

For more details: 930 Lincoln Street
Denver, CO 80203