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Manuel Valera.jpg

2019 Guggenhim Fellow and Grammy Wnning Artist
Born and raised in Havana, based in NYC, NYU Professor and composer.


                        born and raised in Havana, Grammy nominated, Guggenheim Fellow, pianist and composer Manuel Valera since arriving in NYC h as become well known in the modern jazz scene, garnering national reviews and lending his talents as a pianist and composer to such notable artists as Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Jeff “Tain” Watts, John Benitez, Samuel Torres, Yosvany Terry and classical violin virtuoso Joshua Bell among many others. In 2020 Valera joined Steve Smith’s legendary music group Vital Information.

This dynamic and prolific artist has recorded 18 cds as a bandleader with touring projects ranging from his Grammy nominated group New Cuban Express to his modern contemporary trio, solo piano and the New Cuban Express Big Band. 

Valera is the recipient of many composition grants — most notably a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works three different times, the Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation 2 times and the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. He has travelled the world performing in more than 30 countries at some of the biggest international venues and festivals in the world. 

Selected Grants, Commissions & Awards

Grammy Nominated Artist, New Cuban Express, 2012
Guggenheim Fellowship 2019
Chamber Music America New Jazz Works 2005, Impressions of Expressions
Chamber Music America New Jazz Works 2014, José Marti en Nueva York 
Chamber Music America New Jazz Works 2017, The Planets
Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation 2016 Bacardi Commission, Migrant Voyage Dranoff International 2 Piano Foundation 2018 Commission, Centenario
ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, 2005
Commissioned by Joshua Bell and Orchestra for PBS Commission for 
Commissioned by Yosvany Terry Bohemian Trio, Impressionistic Romance and Impromptu
Commission by Paquito D’Rivera with Jazz at Lincoln Center Big Band and his Sextet


Recordings as a Leader

Manuel Valera, Forma Nueva, 2004
Manuel Valera, Historia, 2005
Manuel Valera, Melancolia, 2006
Manuel Valera, Vientos, 2007
Manuel Valera, Currents, 2009
Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express, 2012
Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express, Expectativas, 2013 
Manuel Valera, Self Portrait, 2014 
Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express, In Motion, 2014
Manuel Valera Trio, Live at Firehouse 12, 2015
Manuel Valera & Groove Square, Urban Landscape, 2015 
Manuel Valera Trio, The Seasons, 2017
Manuel Valera Trio, The Planets, 2017 
Manuel Valera Trio, Live at Diese Onze 2020
Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band - Jose Marti en Nueva York, 2020
Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band - Distancia, 2022

Selected Work as Sideman - Tours/Recordings 

Steve Smith & Vital Information
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si, Sextet and Big Band
Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet
Joel Frahm Quartet
Essiet Essiet Trio featuring Jeff Tain Watts 
Yosvany Terry (multiple groups)
Clarence Penn and Penn Station
John Benitez Group 
Lenny White Quartet
Carlos Henriquez (multiple groups)
Arturo Sandoval Sextet
Paquito D’Rivera Duo and Sextet  
Brian Lynch Spheres of Influence 
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Samuel Torres Group




"The blending of Latin music with jazz harmony and improvisation has produced more than a mere hybrid, as a survey of New York's younger players would reveal. Manuel Valera, a Cuban pianist in his mid-20's, illustrates that evolution handily: postbop and classical romanticism are as integral to his vocabulary as Latin folk forms, and they all find natural expression in his music." Nate Chinen, New York Times

"Valera brings considerable talent to the table as shown on this first offering." Jay Collins, One Final Note

"He is a deeply thematic player, often building longer lines from small motifs. But as much as Forma Nueva is a vehicle for his playing, it is also a showcase for his fine writing. Valera’s personal incorporation of Cuban and other ethnic Latin styles into a contemporary post bop context assures him a distinguished place." John Kelman, All About Jazz

"This CD serves proof that Manuel Valera is a brilliant and potential great pianist." Allmusic, By Scott Yanow

"His Forma Nueva heralds the arrival of an important Latin jazz pianist." 
Nat Chediak, Jazziz

"Valera’s sophisticated compositions, and his deft, light touch with strings, stimulate consistently intriguing solos. Blake, especially on soprano, is a voice both affectingly plaintive and articulate. Valera makes one powerful piano statement after another, his speed and complexity and chiming touch always building a story." Thomas Conrad, Jazztimes

"He is endowed with a profound talent and rich progressive jazz-latin ideas… and offers the portrait of an exceptional young artist emerging as a leader." 
Jesse Varela, LatinBeat

"He leaves no doubt that he’s destined to play a role in the future of jazz. Valera shows a keen jazz vocabulary, a gift for creating grooves that invite stellar solo flights from his collaborators and the nerve to romance a melody when it suits him." Philip Van Vleck, Billboard

"It may be rare to hear a 23-year-old with the exploratory interests and tender touch of Valera, but it's an unalloyed pleasure to discover a young man so accomplished that his potential seems boundless. Pianist-composer Manuel Valera is, indeed, prime mover of this Forma Nueva." Howard Mandel, President, Jazz Journalists Association, Writer for Down Beat and Jazz Times

"This is arguably the disc to prick up the ears of any discerning jazz piano fan." John Stevenson, Ejazznews 

"An accomplished debut that makes you want to hear more."
Peter Watrous,


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