Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger, Manuel Valera is in the forefront of contemporary modern jazz. He represents the next generation of great performers and composers. His sound is fresh, inviting and evocative, and his goal is to forge innovative sounds that bring a vitality and newness to the idioms of jazz and Latin jazz. He is constantly workshopping musical ideas to develop new composition and arranging techniques that bring together Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian and various jazz styles and forms.
His musical training started at an early age at Havana’s Manuel Saumell Conservatory where he originally studied classical saxophone. It wasn’t until emigrating to the United States in December 1994 when Valera switched to the piano. He began composing in 2000 while enrolled in the jazz program at the New School in New York where he studied, among others, with Reggie Workman, George Garzone, Jane Ira Bloom, Gerard D’Angelo and Richie Bierach.
In late October 2003, just two days after his 23rd birthday, Valera recorded his debut and critically acclaimed cd, “Forma Nueva”—a modern jazz cd of contemporary originals featuring bassist John Patitucci, drummers Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Bill Stewart and Seamus Blake on saxophones. “Forma Nueva” received nationwide radio airplay and garnered strong reviews in the jazz and music press Billboard, Jazztimes, Jazziz, All Music Guide and Latin Beat among others. The following year, he recorded a second project entitled “Historia” for Fresh Sounds New Talent featuring Ben Street (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums) as well as Seamus Blake (sax) on two tracks.