"This is my largest musical work to date," exclaims the Cuban composer and piano virtuoso. "I have been integrating the roots of the Cuban Congolese tradition that I grew up with as a child into my music, with my training in classical music and also with my inspiration and interest in the entire Caribbean Diaspora. Since I come from a Congolese area (the Tambor Yuka community of Cuba), I wanted to explore all of those traditions in a much broader way."
To help Elio realize his dream within his new suite are the following master musicians: Jon Faddis (trumpet), Leyla McCalla (vocals), Vincent Herring (alto sax/flute), Steve Turre (trombone), Greg Tardy (tenor sax), Michele Wright (bass clarinet/clarinet), Gregg August (bass), Willie Jones III (drums) and Arturo Stable (percussion).
Villafranca's world premiere of Cinqué - Music of the Caribbean, is inspired by the African slave Cinqué, who led the rebellion aboard the ship Amistad in 1839 on his voyage to Cuba.
"I chose five islands with five stories: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica and Santa Domingo. This suite reflects the entire range of my upbringing as a musician in the Caribbean and in Cuba," says Villafranca.
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There are good reasons why Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea have taken a personal interest in Elio Villafranca. Hailing from Havana, Cuba, Elio is rooted in the tradition and rhythms of the Caribbean, yet fully embraces the elements of modern jazz.
Caribbean Tinge (Motema) is his seventh album as a leader, and was recorded during two live performances at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. Performance components are both aural and visual, and audiences connect to both aspects.
Elio Villafranca & The Jass Syncopators create a multi-layered musical dialogue. Percussion, brass and ivory keys set the stage for folkloric dance, Caribbean rhythms and 21st-century jazz. Together, the music and dance integrate a new body of movement and syncopation within the performance of the 8 original Villafranca compositions. Grammy® nominee Villafranca is deeply inspired by Duke Ellington's music of the 1940's, yet proudly aware of his own Latin heritage.
"The band swings hard and brings a traditional yet innovative style to the roots of jazz and Afro Caribbean music. I am profoundly moved by Elio's vision and musicianship. He is a treasured member of the family here at Jazz at Lincoln Center."
- Wynton Marsalis
"Elio's music is passionate. A brand new application of ancient ways." - Chick Corea