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 from his previous work, CINQUE, speaks about his life experiences as an artist, growing up in the small town of San Luis, Pinar del Rio, surrounded by Congolese drums and educated in Russian classical music, while falling in love with jazz. 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, and Gangá, albeit different, have two things in common – the veneration of their gods and how they see the Crossroads as a place of great significance. In Elio’s case, the spiritual concept of the Crossroads touched him the most. Standing by the Crossroads is a project that speaks about Elio’s life experiences as an artist living in Cuba. He encountered many artistic, social, and political Crossroads situations, 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.
Unlike 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.
Elio Villafranca – piano/compositions/ekón/guataca/coros/hand claps
Vocalist: Cecile McLorin Salvant
Vocalist: Mar Vilaseca
Vincent Herring – alto sax/flute/clarinet
Freddie Hendrix – trumpet/flugelhorn
Dayna Stephens – tenor sax/bass clarinet
Jonathan Kreisberg – electric guitar
Domo Branch – drums
Edward Perez – acoustic bass
Jonathan Troncoso – bata drums/coros/hand claps
Mauricio Herrera – bata drums/congas/bonko enchemiya/coros/moyuba/hand claps
Jason Olaine – coros/hand claps
Roberto Castellón – Spanish guitar on Keep the Eyes on the Bull
Jason Olaine and Elio Villafranca – Production
Recorded at Oktaven Audio, NYC
Charles Muller – Recording engineer
Kevin Le Gendre – Editor