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Valera's compositional approach can be heard on his own recordings. Valera's first CD as a leader Forma Nueva was released in 2004. It features the all-star line-up of bassist John Patitucci, drummers Bill Stewart and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez and Saxophonist Seamus Blake. Historia, Melancolia and Vientos were released between 2005–2007 showcasing more of Valera's penmanship featuring drummers Antonio Sanchez and Ernesto Simpson, saxophonist Seamus Blake and Joel Frahm, bassists Ben Street and James Genus and percussionist Luis Quintero. 2009 marked the release of Currents, a trio recording with Genus and Simpson and it was also Valera's debut on the MaxJazz Label.
Valera was a finalist in the 2004 and 2006 Great American Jazz Competition. Valera is a recipient of the 2005 and 2006 ASCAP Young Composers Award and a final nominee in the Up & Coming Musician of the Year category of the Jazz Journalists Association Awards. He received a commission for the 2007 and 2013 Chamber Music America New Works Award.Template:Http://www.chamber-music.org/recipient/manuelvaleragroup-njwp
Manuel Valera's New Cuban Express has been Nominated for the 2013 Grammy awards on the category of Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year