Manuel Valera

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Manuel Valera's fifth CD as a leader is a mix of standards, time-tested jazz compositions, and originals, with a trio including bassist James Genus and drummer Ernesto Simpson. The Cuban pianist/keyboardist is by no means exclusively a Latin jazz stylist, as evidenced by his driving post-bop treatment of "How Deep Is the Ocean," which has long lines reminiscent of Chick Corea, and an explosive take of Thelonious Monk's "We See." A hint of the influence of Bill Evans shines through in Valera's lyrical setting of "I Loves You, Porgy." The pianist also holds the music of the late Kenny Kirkland special, not only by offering a brisk Latin arrangement of Kirkland's infrequently performed "Dienda" but also with his brooding original "Ode to Kenny." The leader adds electric keyboards on several of his compositions, including the tense Latin/fusion opener "Numerico" and the introspective "Hindsight." This is yet another excellent outing for the up-and-coming pianist.

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