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Album review: 'The Seasons'

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Manuel Valera Trio

"The Seasons"

Mavo Records

manuelvalera.com

On his 12th recording as a leader, pianist Manuel Valera embarks on a grand, four-part suite inspired by Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." Make no mistake, while these works follow the Baroque masterpiece with musical interpretations of each season, these are Valera's compositions. "Summer" was never as propulsive as it is here, and "Fall" takes off on a magnificent flight. An excellent composer, Valera offers a few more originals, but the album, driven by Hans Glawischnig on bass and drummer E.J. Strickland, also features several fine covers.

An impressionistic start to John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "In My Life" gives way to a swinging solo before returning to subtle strokes. Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" is more abstract, shifting rhythms and re-inventing the composition. Perhaps Valera's most beautiful cover is Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a song with words so brilliant, it's good to be reminded of how gorgeous the music is. The common denominator throughout the album is Valera's superb soloing. It's easy to hear why he's considered one of the most expressive pianists in jazz today.

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