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Elio Villafranca: Revealing the Secrets of Slavery

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Elio Villafranca: Revealing the Secrets of Slavery
Elio Villafranca: Revealing the Secrets of Slavery

Elio Villafranca: Revealing the Secrets of Slavery

Mr Villafranca began work-shopping his brand new epic in the summer of 2019. The first run of this three movement suite will be open to the public on May 28th at Barretto’s Point Park in the Bronx. Don’t Change My Name, featured a 10-piece ensemble and the students of Bronx Charter School for the Arts (directed by Jason Fitch) as guest vocalists, representing many years of research into the Arará music of Cuba. In telling the story of Florentina Zulueta, Villafranca, ever the musical detective, uses the historic story to trace the threads of Arará music in his native Cuba to the culture and religion of slave trade-era Mahoney, in present day Benin. The heroine of the story – and the music – remains Florentina Zulueta, one of the most important Arará figures in the Cuban slave rebellion whose name has been kept alive by Arará worship even today.

Mr Villafranca was born in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba. He is a Steinway Artist, Grammy nominee, and, in 2014, won the Jazz at Lincoln Center Millennium Swing Award. He was classically trained in percussion and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Since his arrival in the U.S. in 1995, Mr Villafranca is at the forefront of the latest generation of remarkable pianists, composers and bandleaders. Over the years Mr Villafranca has recorded and performed nationally and internationally as a leader, featuring jazz master artists such as Pat Martino, Terell Stafford, Billy Hart, Paquito D’Rivera, Eric Alexander and Wynton Marsalis, among others. He is a faculty member of Temple University, The Juilliard School of Music, New York University, and Manhattan School of Music.

Elio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopators

Mr Villafranca performs much of this epic music with an ensemble he calls The Jass Syncopators. In its latest incarnation, the ensemble also includes trumpeters Jeremy Pelt, and Alex Norris, tenor saxophonist, soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Roxy Coss, trombonist Robin Eubanks, bassist Peter Slavov, drummer Dion Parson, percussionist and vocalist Mauricio Herrera, and percussionist Lisette Santiago. The ensemble often features the celebrated Dreiser Durruthy Bombale, a brilliant percussionist, known for his work on batá drums which he accompanies with spiritual chants.

On March 4th 2020, however, Mr Villafranca will be joined by the bassist Carlos Henriquez and percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo for a concert series entitled Jazz con Clave. Their segment (one of three in this series) will be a novel tribute to the legendary Cuban musicians: Cachao, Tata Güines, and Peruchín. The concert will take place from 7:30pm to 10:30 pm at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY, 10019 United States. If you’re in the area you wouldn’t want to miss this concert. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for more performances of Don’t Change My Name.

*Note (ref. page 1): Patrick Taylor is former chair of the Department of Humanities at York University and a fellow of the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean. He is the author of The Narrative of Liberation: Perspectives on Afro-Caribbean Literature, Popular Culture, and Politics and editor of Nation Dance: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the Caribbean. Frederick I. Case was principal of Caribbean studies and French at New College, University of Toronto, and authored The Crisis of Identity: Studies in the Guadeloupean and Martiniquan Novel, among other works.

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Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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