Cuban pianist Manuel Valera has dazzling technique, but what sets him apart is how smartly he blends his sources — from Afro-Cuban, Venezuelan and Brazilian to Ravel and Debussy, Bola de Nieve and NG La Banda but also Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Red Garland. The result is high-energy music that feels at once familiar and fresh. He has spoken about making complex music “that is simple to the ears.”
The son of saxophonist Manuel Valera, the pianist started out studying sax at Manuel Saumell Conservatory in Havana, switching to piano only after he came to the United States in 1994. He has recorded six albums including Melancolía (2004), in which he brought together his quintet and a string quartet; Vientos (2007), featuring his quartet and a wind ensemble, and his most recent, New Cuban Express.
Valera makes two appearances in Miami this weekend with the Cuban Express, an excellent group featuring Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez on drums, Felipe Lamoglia on sax, Armando Gola on bass and Rene Toledo on guitar.