All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Catching Up With

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Elio Villafranca: Five Islands & A Revolt

John Ephland By

Sign in to view read count
EV: Solo sections are the last thing I think about when I'm creating a new work. My main interest is to write a strong piece of music that could stand on its own, without the need of a soloist. When I'm composing I think more like a classical composer than a jazz musician, and once this first phase is done, then I consider developing a solo section, backgrounds, and what would be the best instrumentation for the music. Deciding who the soloist are in a particular piece is a different process. I carefully choose the soloist depending on a particular sound and message I want to create in the music. For example, in a movement section "The First Colony," I wanted to musically represent the first encounter between the Maroons, who were fugitive black slaves, and the few Native American Taino or Arawak people who survived the Spanish invasion by hiding in the hills and creating the first colonies of free people. In this case, I asked Steve Turre to play the shells over the Congo-derived rhythm called salve. Another example is the type of harmony I used in the section called "Night of Fire: Burn Down the Field." This part was inspired by the 1730 Jamaican revolt known as "The First Maroon War," which was led by the great Maroon leader Cudjoe against the original British colony of Jamaica. "Burn Down the Field" was the order Cudjoe gave to his army of Maroons after freeing the slaves from a sugar, coffee, or indigo plantation.  I used the high register dissonant chords in this section to give the impression of fire burning houses and plantations, while the rhythmic combination of cha-cha-cha played in the congas with an specific bass line creates the feeling of Maroons hiding in the sugar plantation with torches. While I have an ensemble with a wide range of musical possibilities, I'm also careful not to overly orchestrate the music because I also enjoy the concept of transparency and space in the music.

AAJ: As for personnel, the process of picking who you picked, including your later additions... why them?

EV: A large part in the creative process went into selecting the musicians, researching materials and traveling to places to experience the culture firsthand, with the sole intention to share with my supporters a product of artistic integrity and authenticity. Similar to Duke Ellington, some of the music I write is with a specific sound and musician in mind. The first step is to select a group of musicians who you have a good relationship with and can best deliver the artistic statement I aim to present. For Cinque, I wanted to have a band composed of musicians with different backgrounds and heritages. It was important for me to have musicians from the islands I was representing in order to create the most authentic sound in the music. Some of the music included in Cinque is religious-based; therefore, I feature members of that specific religious group or community. In the band I featured musicians/percussionists from the islands of Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo as well as leading jazz musicians from the U.S. This way the music always swings, no matter which style is being played, jazz or Afro-Caribbean.

Photo credit: Kasia Idzkowska


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Zach Brock: Jazz Violin's New Wave Catching Up With
Zach Brock: Jazz Violin's New Wave
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: September 12, 2018
Read Linda May Han Oh: Talent and Dedication Catching Up With
Linda May Han Oh: Talent and Dedication
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: September 11, 2018
Read Harold Lopez-Nussa: from Havana to Indianapolis Catching Up With
Harold Lopez-Nussa: from Havana to Indianapolis
by Fernando Rodriguez
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the Chicago Jazz Festival Catching Up With
Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the...
by Corey Hall
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Frank van Berkel: New Programmer at Amsterdam's Bimhuis is Committed to Serve and to Curate Catching Up With
Frank van Berkel: New Programmer at Amsterdam's...
by Joan Gannij
Published: August 7, 2018
Read Erik Friedlander: Reversing Abstraction Catching Up With
Erik Friedlander: Reversing Abstraction
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: July 31, 2018
Read "Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the Chicago Jazz Festival" Catching Up With Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the...
by Corey Hall
Published: August 21, 2018
Read "Taz Modi: Submotion Orchestra is a unique blend" Catching Up With Taz Modi: Submotion Orchestra is a unique blend
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 14, 2018
Read "Ben Allison: Between Groove and Melody" Catching Up With Ben Allison: Between Groove and Melody
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 20, 2018
Read "Tiffany Austin: Unbroken" Catching Up With Tiffany Austin: Unbroken
by Walter Atkins
Published: June 8, 2018
Read "Gilad Hekselman: New music on the Horizon" Catching Up With Gilad Hekselman: New music on the Horizon
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 6, 2018
Read "Frank Woeste: Reversing Ravel" Catching Up With Frank Woeste: Reversing Ravel
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: February 7, 2018