By Kira Grunenberg | Published August 2020
Live At L’Osons Jazz Club puts on display the delightful chemistry of Manuel Valera’s trio. And while the pianist, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. have a history of performing together, this date captures the ensemble performing for the first time in this configuration.
Much of the album is recorded with noteworthy clarity and never gets bogged down with ambient distractions. Still, sonic subtleties, like the natural buzz from Nakamura’s bold pizzicato midway through the opening “Sun Prelude I (Mercury: The Messenger),” highlight characteristics of these songs that wouldn’t necessarily shine through in the studio. The trio’s many tonal colors run together fluidly, like watercolors blending on paper; Whitfield moves with precision among his floor and rack toms during a frenetic solo on “Evidence.” It’s in sections like these that Valera’s grace at the piano creates the strongest contrast. His softer, more flowing approach offers a refreshing stylistic change against the familiar accentuated style of the Thelonious Monk composition.
Listening to this live disc won’t supplant the visceral feel of a live gig, but it’s a welcome way to explore Valera’s repertoire.
Live At L’Osons Jazz Club: Sun Prelude I (Mercury: The Messenger); From The Ashes; Evidence; Ballade; Mirage; Darn That Dream; Tres Palabras; Neptune; All Of You. (65:56)
Personnel: Manuel Valera, piano; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; Mark Whitfield Jr., drums.