JazzNights is a series of house concerts begun in 2002 by Mary Wisnovsky and Maitland Jones. Over the years, we have hosted some of the best jazz musicians in the world. We would be pleased to have you join us; just browse the website and contact us if you are interested. Reservations by email to: mary@wisnovsky.net or mjjr@princeton.edu.


JazzNights 84

Manuel Valera Trio

Manuel Valera (piano), Rudy Royston (drums),
and Yasushi Nakamura (bass)

Sunday, November 12, 4 pm

Cuba-born and classically trained Manuel Valera burst on the New York Jazz scene in 2000. His first CD, the widely acclaimed Forma Nueva, an all-star group with John Patitucci, Bill Stewart, El Negro Hernandez, and Seamus Blake followed in 2004. Since then, fine recordings in many formats, Grammy nominations, commissions, and awards have followed almost every year. The breadth of Mr. Valera's talents can be seen in the wide variety of formats in which he has recorded (see CD list below): solo work ranging from jazz standards to classical-influenced impromptus and Cuban boleros, traditional jazz piano/bass/drums trios, augmented jazz quartets and quintets, as well as works incorporating string and woodwind quartets.

He has been awarded several grants for composition, most notably Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works in 2007 and 2013, and 2005 and 2006 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards.

His working groups include the New Cuban Express, an Irakere-influenced mid-sized ensemble, Groove Square, a group more oriented to funk and electronic music, and, of course, trios, one of which we will hear in November. I last heard his trio in April, 2015 at the Jazz Standard (Hans Glawischnig was the bassist, not Mr. Nakamura, and E. J. Strickland replaced Mr. Royston), where they played tunes from their recent CD, Live at Firehouse 12. My notes remark the cohesiveness of the group, the way they seemed to play each other’s parts at times. There were tunes with no traditional solos, for example, just group work.

Here is the New York Times’ perceptive Nate Chinen on Manuel Valera:

“ 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."

Both Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Royston have dazzling resumes – and calendars. To list the groups they play in would be to catalogue the jazz world. Each has impressive teaching and playing credentials, and brings virtuosity and taste to their work.


“…a terrific driummer who knows how to shift and enrich rhythms through minimal means”

                                                                                           Eyal Hareuveni




“ A monster of a bassist – you won’t hear better on today’s scene.”


A. G. Zaire

As a non-musical aside, one might note the origins of the three people in this group: Cuba, Japan, Colorado. A metaphor for the best of this country? I think so.

Check them out this November – you won’t be disappointed.


Some of Manuel Valera’s CDs:



Currents (2009, MaxJazz Records) with James Genus & Ernesto Simpson.

Live at Firehouse 12 (2015, CD Baby) with E.J. Strickland and Hans Glawischnig

The Seasons  (2017, MAVO Records) with E.J. Strickland and Hans Glawischnig

Larger Groups


Forma Nueva (2004, Mavo Records) with John Patitucci, Bill Stewart, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez & Seamus Blake.

Vientos (2007, Anzic Records) with James Genus, Ernesto Simpson, Joel Frahm & a woodwind quintet.

New Cuban Express (2012, Mavo Records) with Yosvany Terry, Tom Guarna, John Benitez, Eric Doob & Mauricio Herrera. 2013 Grammy Nominee

Expectativas (2013, CD Baby) with Yosvany Terry, Tom Guarna, John Benitez, Paulo Stagnaro & Ludwig Afonso

In Motion (2014, Criss Cross Jazz) with Yosvany Terry, Tom Guarna, Alex Sipiagin Hans Glawischnig, Mauricio Herrera and Ludwig Afonso

Urban Landscapes (2015, CD Baby) with Groove Square


Self Portrait (2014, CD Baby) Solo Piano


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