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Get A Taste Of Elio Villafranca's Upcoming Release 'Standing By The Crossroads' At Smoke in NYC from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2!


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Villafranca is a Cuban pianist of high technical prowess and rhythmic clarity.
—New York Times
Elio Villafranca leads his exciting group the Jazz Syncopators. Villafranca is spellbinding pianist who has recorded and performed with master artists such as Pat Martino, Terell Stafford, Billy Hart, Paquito D'Rivera, Eric Alexander, Lewis Nash, David Murray, and Wynton Marsalis. He brings an original musical perspective and is at the forefront of an exciting new generation of musicians. Downbeat states, “Villafranca has emerged as a commanding presence on the jazz scene, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world.” The Jass Syncopators highlight the significant influence from the Caribbean region, specifically from Cuba, on jazz music from its earliest days in New Orleans.

Performance Members

Alex Norris [trumpet/flugelhorn]
Steve Wilson [alto & soprano saxophone, flute]
Vincent Herring [alto & tenor saxophone, flute]
Elio Villafranca [piano]
Edward Perez [bass]
Dion Parson [drums]
Mauricio Herrera [percussion]

Born in the province of Pinar del Río, Cuba, Steinway Artist, pianist and composer Elio Villafranca is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient; a two-time Grammy nominee; 2019 Downbeat Critic’s Poll Rising Stars Pianist; winner of the 2018 Downbeat Critic’s Poll Rising Stars Keyboard; first Cuban born recipient of the Sunshine Award (2017), founded to recognize excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries, South America, Centro America, and Africa; and a recipient of the first Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) Millennium Swing Award! in 2014.

Over the years Elio Villafranca has recorded and performed nationally and internationally as a leader, featuring jazz master artists such as Pat Martino, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Paquito D’Rivera, Chick Corea, Jon Faddis, and Johnny Pacheco, among others. He is based in New York City and he is a jazz faculty member at The Juilliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Temple University in Philadelphia.

Standing by The Crossroads featuring Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Two time Grammy nominated Cuban jazz pianist and composer, and 2021 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship Elio Villafranca, has created a new work for Artistshare entitled Standing by the Crossroads. This piece, different than his previous work CINQUE, speaks about his own life experiences as an artist, growing up in the small town of San Luis, Pinar del Rio, surrounded by Congolese drums, educated in Russian classical music, while falling in love with jazz. In this project, Elio also speaks about his experiences as an immigrant, living in the US, and the many Crossroads situations he faced in both countries.


In Cuba, religions are very intertwined with the cultural fabric. Santeria, Arará, Abakuá, Congo, Tumba Francesa, Gangá, albeit different, have two things in common—the veneration of their gods and the way in which they see the Crossroads as a place of great significance. In Elio's case, it was the spiritual concept of the Crossroads that touched him the most. Standing by the Crossroads is a project that speaks about Elio's own life experiences as an artist living in Cuba, and the many artistic, social, and political Crossroads situations he encountered, either choosing from polarized musical styles or artistic forms of expression, to painful moments in life when he was forced to choose between staying or leaving his country of birth. Different from Elio's previous projects, in which he focused on honoring the legacy of historical figures such as CINQUE, these Crossroads experiences served as the source of inspiration for the creation of this new work.

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