This recording is a fascinating, satisfying live programme which brings together three of the most active, finest musicians in New York whose work is rooted in their local cultures, absorbed to form highly personalised prototypes. It is indeed a joy to have musicians such as these rub shoulders with each other. The results—both in terms of the ensemble as well as the soli—are devastatingly beautiful, flow with deep and dynamic tension so as the inhabit songs that are of both wild open spaces and tight corners as well. The finest pieces here are almost classical and classic in design, though uncongenially so, and are alive with the panoply of seasons of joy,” murmurous”, almost plaintive and soulful at times. Manuel Valera’s trio is very impressive indeed and traverses some incredible soundscapes. The two pieces honoring one of the most important musicians of our time, Wayne Shorter, take one down on a maddeningly alluring road and feature some of the most impressive three-way counterpoint you will ever hear on record. I certainly felt that way when I first spun the CD. Putting these two songs together, just after the bravura opener, “Spiral” might have been a bit risqué and typical of the bravado of Mr. Valera.
The pianist together with bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer EJ Strickland have clearly made great efforts to enter the expressive world of Mr. Valera’s (and Wayne Shorter’s and Pietro Mascagni’s) music and the performances show the highest level of technical assurance. The account of “Footprints” is one of the finest I have. At his first entry Mr. Valera uses more pedal than most pianists, surrounding the bass violin and the drums with a halo of sound. Earlier “Spiral” and later “Distancia” and “Intermezzo Sinfonico” of course create a magical atmosphere with all of the musicians as one finding a wealth of tone colours (and especially in the last piece), within a restrained, delicate ambience so that the passionate outburst near the end is doubly striking. In the latter songs as well, the lead-up to melody is perfectly paced, and Manuel Valera’s muted tone at the start of each imparts just the right feeling of tension. Manuel Valera, Hans Glawischnig and EJ Strickland take as their mission the aim of reinvigorating our experience of Jazz music. Their interpretations are lively and affectionate, imaginative and alert to opportunities for taking time and adding appropriately beautiful ornamentation. Their own dazzling contributions also confirm their special skills and command of idiom.
Mr. Valera, Mr. Glawischnig and Mr. Strickland emphasise the impressionistic qualities of the music contained here rather than its declamatory fervour. And it is here that I feel pianist and percussion colourist achieve a better balance, combined with the extraordinary verve of Mr. Glawischnig’s remarkable bowing (when he does go con arco) and sinuous plucking, and it behoves vehement recommendation of this recording for just this reason. I rate the performances of the three men highly; their playing, always thoughtful and imaginative, casts individual lights on this complex, endlessly absorbing work.
Track List: Spiral; Wayne; Footprints; Distancia; En Route; Intermezzo Sinfonico (from Cavalleria Rusticana); Lírico; Century.
Personnel: Manuel Valera: piano; Hans Glawischnig: acoustic bass; EJ Strickland: drums.
About Manuel Valera
The artist Based in New York City, Grammy nominated pianist and composer Manuel Valera was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Since arriving in NYC, he has become well known in the NYC modern jazz scene, garnering national reviews and lending his talents as a pianist and composer to such notable artist as Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Chris Potter, Dave Binney, Adam Rogers, Mark Turner, John Benitez, Samuel Torres, Joel Frahm, Yosvany Terry and Pedro Martinez among many others. Read more…