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Manuel Valera / John Ellis duo (1)
Manuel Valera / John Ellis duo (1)

Thu, Jul 04


Sam First

Manuel Valera / John Ellis duo (1)

Two of NYC's most well-respected voices join forces for two intimate and extremely memorable nights of new and old compositions. GRAMMY-nominated pianist Manuel Valera was recently named a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow! Manuel Valera (piano), John Ellis (tenor saxophone)

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Jul 04, 2019, 8:00 PM

Sam First, 6171 W Century Blvd Suite 180, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA

Two versatile composers and instrumentalist traversing and interacting thru compositions by both written with this chamber music format in mind as well as new refreshing arrangements on material from the great American songbook.


Based in New York City, 2013 Grammy nominated artist, 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, pianist and composer Manuel Valera was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Since arriving in NYC, he has become well known in the NYC modern jazz scene, garnering national reviews and lending his talents as a pianist and composer to such notable artist as Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Jeff “Tain” Watts, , John Benitez, Samuel Torres, Joel Frahm, Yosvany Terry among many others. Manuel is also the leader of the New Cuban Express. His 6th record as a leader New Cuban Express was released in June/2012 and is nominated for the 2013 Grammys in the Best Latin Jazz Album category

His ensemble New Cuban Express features some of the most in demand players in the NYC scene today. Yosvany Terry on saxophone, Tom Guarna on guitar, John Benitez on bass, Ludwig Afonso on drums and Mauricio Herrera on Percussion. This group explores and fuses the music of Cuba with Jazz. All the members of the band are well versed in Latin and Jazz vocabulary allowing the group to have a sound can be authentic in both genres.

His critically acclaimed debut cd in 2004 Forma Nueva (MAVO) features John Patitucci, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez Bill Stewart and Seamus Blake. Historia (Fresh Sounds New Talent, 2005), a jazz quartet with Antonio Sanchez, Seamus Blake and Ben Street. His third release Melancolia (MAVO,2006)—employs a string quartet incorporating world rhythms and classical concepts in the jazz idiom. Vientos (Anzic, 2007),representing a new working quartet, features bassist James Genus, drummer Ernesto Simpson, saxophonist Joel Frahm and a woodwind quartet. His fifth and trio recording Currents (MaxJazz 2009) features Ernesto Simpson and James Genus.

In addition, he has been awarded several grants for composition most notably Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works in 2006 and 2013, Dranoff 2 Piano Barcardi Choice commission 2015 and the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Manuel has travelled the world performing in over 30 countries at some of the biggest international venues and festivals.

“He leaves no doubt that he is destined to play a role in the future of jazz.”

—Philip Van Vleck, Billboard

The sound is both old and spectacularly new in terms of his re-invention of the music of a tradition to which he is inextricably linked. And this increases Valera’s importance as a musician in the arena of Afro-Cuban music.

–Raul da Gama, Latin Jazz Network, June 2012

New Cuban Express is one of the best new Latin Jazz releases we’ve heard this year (or in a while, frankly), and sets a bar that will be hard for others to jump over.

–Bill Tilford,, June 2012

With New Cuban Express, Valera stakes his claim for the establishment of a new sound in fusing rhythms of Latin with elements of modern/fusion.

–Edward Bianco, EJazz News, June 2012


The gifted, versatile saxophonist/clarinetist/composer John Ellis occupies an imaginary (and extremely imaginative) space directly between the celebratory, welcoming spirit of New Orleans and the edgy, frantic streets of New York City. Both as the leader of his own eclectic projects and as an in-demand sideman for a mind-boggling number and variety of artists, Ellis expresses keen intellect, easy virtuosity, and mischievous spirit.

Ellis’ own projects include his eccentric urban carnival band Double-Wide, his quintet of A-list players, and a series of Jazz Gallery-commissioned narrative pieces with playwright Andy Bragen. The second-place winner of the 2002 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, the North Carolina native has established himself as one of New York’s premier tenor saxophonists, working with artists as diverse as John Patitucci, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Charlie Hunter, and Sting. Ellis has released nine albums as a leader, while his discography lists more than 150 album credits as a sideman.


  • Presale Ticket

    Please limit tickets purchased to 6 per show. If you'd like to bring a larger group, email

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  • Student/LA Jazz Society member

    Must present a valid student ID or LA Jazz Society membership card upon arrival. Please limit tickets purchased to 6 per show. If you'd like to bring a larger group, email

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