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Album Review

There is a school of Bill Evans-influenced post-bop pianists who could be called the crystalline players: improvisers who have a very clean, clear, polished style of pianism yet have no problem swinging. Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett fall into that category, as do Eliane Elias, Fred Hersch, Lynne Arriale, and the late Michel Petrucciani. And on Melancolia, Cuban pianist Manuel Valera continues to be well-served by his devotion to this crystalline style. Evans, Corea, Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock are all influences on this enjoyable album, but instead of going out of his way to emulate any of those improvisers, Valera strives for individuality, and one of the things that is part of Valera's musical personality is an appreciation of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Valera isn't terribly overt about it; he doesn't use Afro-Cuban rhythms as liberally as percussionist Poncho Sanchez. But that Afro-Cuban influence is there nonetheless; it is present on Valera's own compositions (which dominate this 73-minute CD) as well as on an intriguing version of Sergei Rachmaninov's Prelude in C Minor. Melancolia is definitely on the cerebral side; Valera's complex post-bop does not go out of its way to be accessible. But Valera, for all his intellect, has a romantic streak that serves him especially well on the title track (written by Silvio Rodriguez) and the reflective "While She Sleeps." Melancolia is a respectable outing from this Havana-reared pianist.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Cuban-born pianist/composer and bandleader Manuel Valera is a forward-minded jazz musician with a knack for combining myriad Latin styles with contemporary jazz and post-bop. Starting out as a saxophonist while studying at the Manuel Saumell Conservatory in Havana, Valera switched full-time to piano after moving to the United States and enrolling in the New School in New York City around 1994. He has performed with a variety of name musicians, including bassist John Patitucci, reed player Paquito...
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Melancolía, Manuel Valera
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