Two-time Grammy-nominated Cuban jazz pianist, composer, and a 2021 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship ELIO VILLAFRANCA has created a new work titled “STANDING BY THE CROSSROADS.” This piece, different than 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, 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, and 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. 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.
Band Members: Elio Villafranca – piano/compositions/ekón/guataca/coros/hand claps Vocalist: Cécile 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 clapsMauricio Herrera – bata drums/congas/bonko enchemiya/coros/moyuba/hand claps Jason Olaine – coros/hand claps. Special Guest: Guillermo Guillen – Spanish guitar on “Keep the Eyes on the Bull” Jason Olaine and Elio Villafranca – Production Reece Ewing – co-production recorded at Oktaven Audio, NYC Charles Muller – Recording engineer Mastered at Sterling Sound Greg Calbi – Master engineer Kevin Le Gendre – Editor.