Manuel Valera reinvents the solo piano format with an intimate self portrait of inspiring beauty.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
I first became acquainted with Manuel Valera via the New Cuban Express, a fiery and organic collective that found a post bop / fusion happy place with Latin jazz and has received enormous critical acclaim. Valera now takes center stage with an intimate and aptly titled release, Self Portrait.
The solo piano recording is the equivalent of tap dancing in a harmonic mine field. Some would point to Latin influences that smolder just beneath the surface of tunes that pay homage to Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell but a closer listen reveals a finesse and technical approach more closely associated with more modern classical artists. The original composition "Impromptu No. 1 For George (Gershwin)" is a master class that showcases an artist as artistically gifted as he is technically proficient. Dynamics are powerful yet masterfully adapted to the lyrical variations with which Valera approaches each composition. A new world spin with old school flair, a global triumph!
Manuel Valera has now raised the bar for solo piano from the expected to the unlimited possibilities of what can be captured when an artist digs just a little deeper. A stellar and inspired recording!
Tracks: Spiral; Very Early; Solamente Una Vez; Impromptu No. 1 For George; Hallucinations; Water; Impromptu No. 2 For Erik Satie; Ask Me Now; Las PerlasDe Tu Boca; Improvisation; Hope; Impromptu No. 3 For Nicolas Slonimsky; Blues.
Manuel Valera: piano.