Based in New York City, Grammy nominated artist, 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, Jeff “Tain” Watts, John Benitez, Samuel Torres, Joel Frahm, Yosvany Terry among many others.
Valera is also the leader of his working band Manuel Valera and the New Cuban Express, a project deeply influenced by the experiments of Cuban artists from the 70s and 80s. While inspired by artists Irakere, Emiliano Salvador and AfroCuba, this touring band creates a unique and distinctive style that mixes elements of Jazz, R&B, fusion and funk with Cuban music styles. Expectativas (MAVO 2013) is the follow up and seventh recording as a leader to his 2013 Grammy nominated New Cuban Express (MAVO 2012) which was up for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year.
His critically acclaimed debut CD in 2004 Forma Nueva (MAVO) features John Patitucci, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez Bill Stewart and Seamus Blake. Historia (Fresh Sounds New Talent 2005), a jazz quartet with Antonio Sanchez, Seamus Blake and Ben Street. His third release Melancolia (MAVO 2006)—employs a string quartet incorporating world rhythms and classical concepts in the jazz idiom. Vientos (Anzic 2007), representing a new working quartet, features bassist James Genus, drummer Ernesto Simpson, saxophonist Joel Frahm and a woodwind quartet. His fifth and trio recording Currents (MaxJazz 2009) features Ernesto Simpson and James Genus.
In addition, he has been awarded several grants for composition most notably Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works and the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Manuel has travelled the world performing in over 30 countries at some of the biggest international venues and festivals.
ABOUT THE MUSIC: Migrant Voyage
The Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation has commissioned a work from jazz pianist and composer Manuel Valera, funded by leading spirit marque Bacardi.
The Bacardi/Valera/Dranoff association is a perfect fit for the Cuban-born, family-rooted Bacardi, which from its beginnings in 19th century Santiago de Cuba has enjoyed a close link to the world of culture and the arts, from scion Emilio Bacardi’s reputation as novelist – and freedom fighter – through the artists in the family, its art collection, and commission of world-class architecture. Bacardi is an international brand immersed in tradition and family pride, and its signature product, Bacardi rum, is synonymous with the history and culture of the Caribbean and the island of Cuba.
Dranoff 2 Piano, one of the U.S. top commissioners of new classical music is the most important organization to promote, award and present two piano music, remains committed to the classical masters who have composed some of their best work for the two piano repertoire, even as it is the engine for the continuing endurance of this music with its promotion of young two piano artists and its commission of work by our era’s most important composers. Manuel Valera’s Migrant Voyage is the most recent Dranoff commission.