Memories are what Manual Valera
Sr.’s Recuerdos (Mavo Records, 2014) is all about. The program
is rich with history, romance and rhythms of generations of Cubans.
The Grammy-winning Valera plays alto saxophone. His bandmates are son,
Manuel Valera on piano; Hans Glawischnig on bass; Ludwig Afonso on drums
and Mauricio Herrera on percussion.
“Si Me Comprendieras” is a laid-back, evening on a tropical beach piece.
Valera Sr. and son each stretch out freely, getting into the moment with
their respective instruments. One can visualize a moonlight gathering
with some dancing on a makeshift floor while others watch the dancers
and listen to the band while sipping on fruity cocktails.
The bass and drums figure prominently on the romantic “La Tarde.” Valera
Sr.’s play is reminiscent of Paquito D’Rivera, in whose band Valera has
been lead alto. The song is elegance personified. It's perfect for slow
dancing. It’s also one of the longer pieces in the set at nearly eight
With the exception of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude,” all songs are Latin
pieces that capture some element of the album’s theme. Among the
songwriters whose works are rendered here: Jose Antonio Mendez, Sindo
Garay, Manuel Corona and Felix Reina Aldana.
Valera Sr. has performed or recorded on more than 40 albums by a variety
of artist, including Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval,
Clark Terry, Michael Brecker and David Sanchez. Apart from playing with
several bands in Cuba, he is credited with creating the first jazz
saxophone quintet in that nation. He graduated with high honors from
Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, where he studied saxophone, clarinet and
flute. Recuerdos is his first recording as a leader.