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SpanishEnglishSelf Portrait by Manuel Valera

CD Review: Self Portrait by Manuel Valera (Mavo Records June 2014)
Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

Self Portrait is Manuel Valera's eighth album but his first solo recording - the first seven were all ensemble projects including the two recent New Cuban Express releases (New Cuban Express and Expectativas)  that have riveted the attention of the Jazz community in both the United States and Cuba (both recordings were nominated for Cubadisco awards there;  the first New Cuban Express recording was also nominated for a GRAMMY here).   

As is the case with the New Cuban Express recordings, a number of different influences come together here -  the classical side comes through especially in the Impromptus which pay homage to Gershwin, Satie and Slonimsky; the Bill Evans, Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk selections along with his own Spiral illustrate that he can impart an impressive amount of rhythm even without a rhythm section; two lovely boleros feature cascading melodic lines, and the closing Blues has that 4am vibe after the club has closed but the pianist is not ready to leave the instrument just yet.  

Just as the recent ensemble recordings reached out and grabbed listeners, there is a vitality to these sides that will hold one's attention even during the more introspective moments.  Highly recommended for both Jazz and Classical fans - this recording, like the recent Sacrilegio by Ernán López-Nussa, basically demolishes the notion that these two genres belong in different rooms.   In the right hands, both can coexist without compromising the integrity of either. 

Manuel Valera's website is


Spiral (M. Valera)
Very Early (Bill Evans)
Solamente Una Vez (A. Lara)
Impromptu No. 1 for George Gershwin (M. Valera)
Hallucinations (Bud Powell)
Water (M. Valera) 
Impromptu No. 2 for Erik Satie (M. Valera)
Ask Me Now (Thelonius Monk)
Las Perlas de tu Boca (B. Diez)
Improvisation (M. Valera)
Hope (M. Valera)
Impromptu No. 3 for Nicolas Slonimky (M. Valera)
Blues (M. Valera)

Performed by Manuel Valera on a restored 1918 Steinway D piano
Produced by Manuel Valera

Bill Tilford - Friday, 30 May 2014, 11:59 PM