Manuel Valera New Cuban Express – Bronx Museum of the Arts – November 7, 2014
One more new venue for me, hooray for the Bronx. I’d earlier caught a permutation of parts of this combo under Yosvanny Terry’s leadership; here the gig was Valera’s (who actually remembered me sketching him back in 2012). The Cuban jazz angle was enough to rope me in, but the repertoire had a more wide-ranging complexity. There was an extended song-cycle segment “Marti en Nueva York” based on José Martí’s poetry (yes, the Cuban revolutionary was also a poet and journalist, and lived for a time in NYC) that brought in the vocalist Sofía Rei. It was not necessary to understand a word of Spanish to have a robust appreciation of this moving work. It was fun to watch the percussion interplay between Calvaire and Herrera; one would suggest a figure, and it would then bounce back and forth, embellished, as their grins widened.