Grammy nominated pianist and composer Manuel Valera continues to churn out ear candy. Having recently collaborated with his father, Manuel Valera Sr. and released a solo piano set, he’s back with his band, New Cuban Express, for their third venture, In Motion (Criss Cross Jazz, 2014)

Valera plays piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. With him are Yosvany Terry, alto and soprano saxophones, and chekere; Tom Guarna, guitar; Alex Sipiagin, trumpet and flugelhorn; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Ludwig Afonso, drums; and Mauricio Herrera, percussion.

It’s like a confluence of Tito Puento, Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval “Descargando” is a lively opening track. It’s as if Valera said, “Let’s just play.” The song captures many moods, represented by each musician, as they all get a moment or two in the spotlight. Terry and Sipiagin are out front much of the way, blending for a bright, sunny melody, and separating as they trade verses. A highlight is a call and response between Valera and the percussionists, which sets up the leader’s climactic solo near the end.

“Bantu” is a slightly mellower piece – emphasis on slightly. Valera opts for the Rhodes on this one, delivering a sound that’s like a hybrid of material created by Eumir Deodato, Bob James and Chick Corea in the 1970s. The music is a bit softer, but no less energetic than the other songs.

“Mirrors” features Terry and Guarna in a tightly syncopated, high-speed opening sequence, that downshifts into an easy-going melody. Then after Valera makes a brief statement, the sequence repeats. Terry takes the alto on an adventurous jaunt that includes a blistering, “how many notes can you squeeze into a second?” phrase. Guarna and Valera follow with equally engaging solos.

Valera is a native of Cuba. Since settling in New York, he has worked with several jazz luminaries, including Dafnis Prieto, Sandoval, D’Rivera, Lenny White and Brian Lynch. He has released eight albums as a leader. In Motion is the third by Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express.

One of the cool things about this project is it’s not all about any one player – or even two or three. The approach to In Motion is similar to a driver’s education experience: Valera sets the speed and plans the route, but everybody gets a turn behind the wheel.