Manuel Valera And The New Cuban Express Performing Live

by chipboaz on December 21, 2016

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Fusion is often considered a major piece of the jazz cannon, but at its core, its really a flawed concept. When you think about it, a “fusion” is really the mixture of two or more musical ideals, regardless of style. While it’s true that the mixture of jazz and rock – the most commonly accepted definition of fusion – certainly fits the bill, so do many other things. When you blend jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, you get one type of fusion; putting together jazz and Brazilian music, you get yet another type of fusion. You could even make an argument that jazz itself is originally fusion, pulling together pieces of West African culture and West European music. There’s so many directions that the idea of fusion can go; it’s simply hard to nail down accurately. Perhaps fusion is something that can’t be lumped into a generic category, but instead, it’s something that is unique to individual approaches.

Pianist Manuel Valera has brought many different types of musical influences together into a unique fusion with his group The New Cuban Express. Valera and his musicians certainly bring a legitimite jazz background into the mix, with the ability to speak fluently in the language of traditional jazz harmony and improvisation. There’s undoubtedly a lineage that connects strongly to Afro-Cuban musics of all kinds – you hear bits of Cuban folkloric music, dance music, and art music all mixed together. Then there’s the decidedly funky rock edge brought to the group, referenced by Valera’s outstanding synthesizer work, Tom Guarna’s edgy guitar, and the overall youthful enthusiasm of the group. The group’s fusion really comes from the way that they pull all the different influences into one cohesive sound though – the odd time signatures, shifting rhythmic feels, and lush harmony all reside uniquely in Valera’s group. The New Cuban Express has a distinct and interesting approach to music that emanates from their own backgrounds and leads to inspiring music.

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