Born in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, Elio Villafranca is at the forefront of the latest generation of remarkable Cuban musicians. The Grammy nominated jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader will showcase his new work Standing by the Crossroads, with his six piece jazz ensemble – the Jass Syncopators. The ensemble adeptly pushes boundaries, infusing jazz with the syncopated rhythms of traditional Afro-Caribbean musical forms. Villafranca’s compelling and complex compositions teem with subtle textures and feature architecture derived from his classical training. This concert is presented by Blues to Green as part of a week-long residency.
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 Orishas and the way in which 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 his own life experiences as an artist living in Cuba, and the many Crossroads situations he has encountered— from the polarization of musical styles or choices of artistic expression, to moments of life where he was faced with choosing between contradictory paths. These Crossroads moments posed plentiful double meanings and contradictory outcomes such as revolution or autonomy, living in the present or planning for the future, oppression or freedom, and homeland or no land. Different from Elio’s previous projects, in which he focused on honoring the legacy of historical figures such as CINQUE, these Crossroads experiences serve as the source of inspiration for this new work.