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"Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens." - Maria von Trapp

Manuel Valera advises his students at New York University to write music every day. “I tell them that composition is essentially another instrument – the more you practice, the better you get at it,” says the 42-year-old piano master, who, by his count, has generated some 200 recorded pieces since he entered the fray in the early aughts.
  Vessel, Valera’s second album for Criss Cross, showcases eight recent works, each “honoring a different person who’s influenced my music.” Valera made it last December, nine years after presenting another eight originals on In Motion [Criss-Cross 1372] which featured a slamming iteration of his New Cuban Express ensemble, whose eponymous first CD had earned a 2013 Grammy nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” The pieces on that straight-eighth oriented session mixed elements from various Afro-Cuban dialects with postbop, fusion jazz, funk and R&B, incorporating intricate beat modulation, odd meters, and intriguing ensemble color.
  Valera’s preternatural ability to navigate multiple dialects may seem equivalently mysterious to his peers and colleagues. “I want to play this music live with these cats,” he says. “We can play both this way and in the style of New Cuban Express.” Hopefully, the sound of Vessel is an opening salvo, not a one-off.

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Illusion of Choice
Michael Thomas Quartet
Vessel
Manuel Valera Quintet
In Motion
Manuel Valera / New Cuban Express