Manuel Valera is redefining the parameters of the Afro-Cuban movement, now there are none!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
To bop or not to bop...Make mine Cubop. Latin jazz hits my musical sweet spot with the most amazing aspect that there are a plethora of hybrids that make up and celebrate this most diverse culture. In Brazil the music is divided into regions with well over two dozen hybrids of lyrical splendor that celebrate one of the most beautiful places on earth. Manuel Valera's debut with the New Cuban Express brings together the Afro-Cuban groove with a heavy dose of Cuban rhythms for the hybrid more commonly referred to as Cubop.
Valera is such a formidable talent on piano that his vision allows to tweak this hybrid ever so slightly to make his own sound fusing classical, Cuban and the more post modern influence from the improvisational music we refer to as jazz in the United States. The smoldering Cuban groove is deceptively subtle and changes with each composition from the smoldering "New Cuban Express" to the more funk inspired "Choices." The land of rhythm and groove is somewhat cliché for the music of Manuel Valera goes far deeper. It is the masterful manipulation of rhythms and the ability to change dynamics on the fly that push the New Cuban Express to the front of the Latin jazz pack where competition is stiff and causalities are many!
With Valera block chording never gets old nor does it set one line of the rhythmic pulse for others to follow, instead we have a true Cuban collective in every sense of the word. The New Cuban Express can be reviewed in one word - flavor. A melting pot of melodic ideas that are brought together to celebrate tradition while forging a new harmonic path and the next evolutionary step in the Latin jazz community. Eric Doob on drums, Mauricio Herrera and Tom Guarna provide the pulse. Yosvany Terry brings an improvisational flight of fancy while Manuel Valera showcases his own formidable talents in an ensemble whose musical stock is an arrow pointing straight up!
The future of Latin jazz is now!
Tracks: New Cuban Express; Intro To Upwards; Choices; Me Faltabas Tu; Regards; Poly; Intro To Gismonteando; Gismonteando; Interlude; Cinco Contra Tres; Danzon; Makuta
Personnel: Manuel Valera: Piano, Fender Rhodes, Keyboards; Yosvany Terry: Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Chekere; Tom Guarna: Electric and Acoustic Guitar; John Benitez: Bass; Eric Doob: Drums; Mauricio Herrera: Percussion.