Urban Landscape by Manuel Valera & Groove Square is the first album the group has recorded together but it is Manuel Valera’s eleventh. Groove Square is a little more upbeat and funky than most of Manuel Valera’s albums. Groove Square is made up of Manuel Valera on keyboards, John Ellis on saxophone, John Benitez on bass, E.J. Strickland on drums, and Nir Felder on guitar. Manuel evokes his impressive ability as a songwriter and shows off his chops on the Fender Rhodes, Moog Synthesizer, Hammond B3 and grand piano.
Manuel Valera & Groove Square seamlessly blend together grooving bass lines, popping horn lines, and catchy rhythms and melodies to create a modern feel of what jazz has become in this era. During “Coming Down,” Manuel shows off his impressive ability on the Moog synthesizer and gives us a nice preview of what is to come throughout the album.
“Gliding” is an outlier in the album but don’t take that the wrong way. It is a soothing ballad that really hits the spot if you are in the mood for being moved by an impressive harmonica solo by special guest Gregoire Maret. “New Ways” is a personal favorite off the album and showcases an impressive bass line by John Benitez to start off the tune. E.J. Strickland plays a break-beat during segments of the song that really drive it and sticks out as a highlight. Urban Landscape is a great listen from start to listen with plenty of peaks throughout.
Recommended If You Like: Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Snarky Puppy
Recommended Tracks: 1 (121st Street), 2 (Coming Down), 7 (Never Absent), 10 New Ways
Do Not Play: None
Written by Matt Weiman on 11/25/15