Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Manuel Valera Trio: The Seasons (Mavo)

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Manuel Valera Trio: "The Seasons"
Manuel Valera Trio: “The Seasons”

Manuel Valera hasn’t gotten as much attention as other Cuban emigré pianists like Gonzalo Rubalcaba and David Virelles. He hit the U.S. scene as a 23-year-old hotshot in 2004 with a flashy debut album, Forma Nueva. The Seasons is his 13th recording as a leader. Originals like “Opening” and “In the Eye of the Beholder” prove that he is still a champ. His chops enable him to execute ornate designs at warp speed, while generating ferocious rhythmic thrust. His collaborators here, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer E. J. Strickland, are major factors in that thrust.

Valera’s facility may sometimes be his trap. He thinks in large concepts, but his improvisations can be predictable. Often he repeats similar processes of theme statement/clever elaboration/relentless acceleration. The album’s title sequence is ambitious; fortunately it is not another jazz version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. It is Valera’s personal meditation on the universal paradigms of spring’s fecundity, summer’s passion, autumn’s harvest and winter’s finality. He hints at Vivaldi’s melodies but quickly overwhelms them with new content and jazz energy. All four movements of his suite contain Valera’s typical gathering intensity. But each keeps returning to its structure. The combination of Baroque formality and rampant spontaneity is interesting.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published