pianist Manuel Valera, who returns to Ann Arbor this month after his dramatic debut here last year. Hilario Durán, who was scheduled to play at the Kerrytown Concert House last November, had last-minute border problems and was replaced by Valera, who immediately established his own rapport with the audience. The performance by the twenty-three-year-old newcomer was a great success.
Valera began his musical training in Cuba, studying classical saxophone, and switched to the piano when he arrived in this country a decade ago. Well versed in the classics, he obtained a degree from the New School in New York, where he studied under Reggie Workman and many other experienced jazz musicians, but his playing definitely reaches beyond academic competence. Valera demonstrated, though in a restrained and subtle manner, that he has complete mastery over his instrument and a full command of contemporary jazz and Latin idioms. Most impressive was the individual manner in which he brought these elements together and the rhythmic and yet delicate lyrical quality of his approach.
He returns to Kerrytown Concert House on Friday, August 19, with a quartet that includes tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and the fabulous drummer Adam Cruz.
[Review published August 2005]