Manuel Valera – Urban Landscape

Music seems to just ooze from the mind and fingers of Manuel Valera. Over the last few years, he’s released several recordings, among them two with New Cuban Express, one solo piano effort and as a sideman to his father, Manuel Valera Sr. Now with a new ensemble, Groove Square, Valera delivers Urban Landscape (Destiny Records, 2015).

Valera plays Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Prophet 08 and Hammond organ. With him are John Ellis, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Nir Felder, guitar; John Benitez, bass; E.J. Strickland and Jeff “Tain’ Watts, drums; Gregoire Maret, harmonica; and Paula Stagnaro and Maurice Herrera, percussion.

Guitar and tenor join for the melody of “121st Street.” The song has a slight funk groove. After the first few lines, Ellis takes off on a spirited jaunt. Benitez and Strickland remain locked in during the solo. Then Valera takes a turn on the Rhodes. The melody resumes, setting up Felder’s expressive solo during the finale.

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