Cuban Pianist/Composer Manuel Valera To Showcase New CD "Melancolia" 3/23 at The Jazz Gallery in NYC


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The Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Manuel Valera will showcase music from Melancolia, his second CD as a leader, on Thursday, March 23 at The Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street in Manhattan. Valera will perform with saxophonist Yosvany Terry, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Ernesto SImpson. General admission to the 9 pm and 10:30 pm sets is $12 per set, $10 per set for Jazz Gallery Members. For reservations and more information please call 212.242.1063.

Manuel Valera has, at 25, established a place for himself at the forefront of contemporary modern jazz while still belonging to the generation of instrumentalists and composers emerging on the global scene today. Born in Havana on October 17, 1980, and son of the noted Cuban saxophonist Manuel Valera, Sr., the younger Valera has developed a fresh, inviting and evocative sound he uses as a pianist to create inventive music that instills a fresh, new vitality into the jazz and Latin jazz idioms and as a composer to write songs and arrangements that synthesize Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian and various jazz styles.

Melancolia is the much-anticipated follow-up to Forma Nueva, Valera's acclaimed recording debut as a leader that was released in the fall of 2004 and received rave reviews in JazzTimes, Jazziz, Billboard and Latin Beat among other publications. These and the extensive airplay the CD received in the US quickly established the pianist as a rising star on the international jazz scene. A modern jazz project incorporating improvisation along with world rhythms and classical concepts, Melancolia features 11 Valera originals as well as inventive arrangements of the C# Minor Prelude by Sergei Rachmaninoff and the title track, a popular song by Cuban composer Silvio Rodriguez.

Two weeks after it was serviced to jazz radio stations in the US on February 01, 2006, Melancolia was the #1 jazz CD added at college radio stations around the country. It debuted the following week on the CMJ Jazz Top-40 Chart at #31 and jumped to #15 the next week. The CD was #3 on the February 23 Top-40 chart of the nationally syndicated radio program “Jazz With Bob Parlocha," and debuted at #37 on the JazzWeek Top-50 Jazz Chart of February 27th, moving up to #33 on the March 6th chart. In its February 13, 2006 review of Melancolia the jazz radio trade publication JazzWeek said: “...the Cuban-born pianist, arranger and composer further demonstrates his prowess at incorporating Latin jazz influences into propulsive, up-tempo pieces and subtly sensitive contemporary compositions. Melancolia should cement Valera's growing reputation as one of the top young composers and pianists in jazz."

It's astonishing - upon listening to the mature and original playing and writing displayed on Valera's self-produced recordings -- to realize it was only in 1994, after emigrating to the US, that he switched to the piano from the classical saxophone he'd studied at Havana's Conservatory Manuel Saumell. It's equally remarkable 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 individually with Reggie Workman, George Garzone, Jane Ira Bloom, Gerard D'Angelo and Richie Bierach among others. He is a recipient of a 2005 ASCAP Young Composers Award for “De un pajaro las dos alas" ("Of a bird is two wings"), the opening track on Melancolia which is dedicated to Cuba's best known poet Jose Marti. The title is a line from a Marti poem that describes the similarities between Cuba and Puerto Rico, the two countries being the wings of the bird.

Based in New York, Valera has performed at many of the city's leading jazz venues including Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the Blue Note, Birdland, Jazz Standard, The Jazz Gallery, 55 Bar and Sweet Rhythm as well as at the Apollo Theatre and Town Hall. He has also appeared at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap (where he was Artist Of The Month in September 2004), Dazzle in Denver and Chris' Jazz Caf in Philadelphia. Valera has played with Paquito D' Rivera, Vincent Herring, John Benitez, Donny McCaslin, Claudio Roditi, Louis Hayes, Bobby Sanabria, Giovanni Hildago, Dave Valentin, Nelson Gonzales, Juan Pablo Torres, William Cepeda, Eddie Gomez, Richard Bona, Yosvany Terry Cabrera, Dafnis Prieto and the salsa singer George Lamond among others.

Valera is one of five finalists in the 2006 Great American Piano Competition the winner of which will be announced after the competition/concert on April 6th in Jacksonville (FL). In April 2004 Valera won 2nd place in the same competition and that November opened for McCoy Tyner during the first night of the 22nd Annual Hollywood (FL) Jazz Festival. In 2005 Valera was a finalist in the “Up & Coming Musician of the Year" category of the Jazz Journalists Association's Awards.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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