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Elio Villafranca Releases New Album: ‘Standing by the Crossroads’

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A Note From Elio Villafranca:

Growing up in Cuba, I saw how different religions are intertwined with the cultural fabric of the country. In many of these different religions represented in Cuba, people see the crossroads as a place of great significance. It was the spiritual concept of the crossroads that touched me the most and inspired me to create my second record in a musical trilogy that honors my ancestry and my life as a Jazz artist.

Welcome to my new project, Standing by the Crossroads.

While working on Standing by the Crossroads, I will also be adding to a booklet that will connect you with my music and life in a deeply personal way. I want to bring you along with me as I work on this double album that I am very passionate about. This is a project that speaks about my own life experiences as an artist living in Cuba, and the many crossroads situations that I have encountered throughout my life. While this project will focus primarily on my life, Standing by the Crossroads will explore a universal feeling so many of us have faced when we are looking down two different paths and must decide which one we will embark on.

Join me as I set out on a creative journey to complete the second record in a musical trilogy that has meant so much to me. – Elio Villafranca

Elio Villafranca Releases New Album: 'Standing by the Crossroads'
Elio Villafranca Releases New Album: ‘Standing by the Crossroads’

Two-time Grammy® nominated Cuban jazz pianist, composer, and a 2021 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship Elio Villafranca, has created a new work entitled 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.

Inspiration

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. 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/clarinetn
  • Freddie Hendrix – trumpet/flugelhorn
  • Dayna Stephens – tenor sax/bass clarinet
  • Jonathan Kreisberg – electric guitar
  • Domo Branch – drums
  • Edward Pérez – 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

Special Guests:

  • 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

Content Source: Scott Thompson PR
Featured photo of Elio Villafranca by Kasia Idzkowska

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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New Releases

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”

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Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria
Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria

Celebrating 25 years! The multi-Grammy nominated Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is set to release their new recording: “Vox Humana” featuring vocalists Janis Siegel, Antoinette Montague, Jennifer Jade Ledesna.

Recorded Live at Dizzy’s Club Cola in NYC
Release Date: Spring 2023
Record Label: Jazzheads

New York – January 18th – On the heels of their Grammy nominated and 2019 Jazz Journalists Association Album of the Year Award winning critically acclaimed masterwork, West Side Story Reimagined, and in celebration of their 25th anniversary – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band return with their most ambitious work to date, VOX HUMANA.

Bobby states, “Over the course of our many Grammy nominated albums we’ve occasionally featured tracks with vocals. But I’ve always envisioned doing an entire vocal album framed by the Multiverse Big Band. Now with three of today’s greatest contemporary singing talents – multi-Grammy award winner Janis Siegel from the Manhattan Transfer, blues and jazz Queen Antoinette Montague, and the multilingual powerhouse, Jennifer Jade Ledesna, today that vision has finally become a reality.

The individually distinct voices that Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer possess make them each unique. But the X factor they all have is they are all masterful improvisors in the best sense of the jazz tradition. Added to the mix is our great conguero, Oreste Abrantes, who also sings lead on two tracks. Having that multi- dimensional vocal talent framed by the power, nuance, and tonal variety that only a big band can provide, combined with the repertoire I’ve chosen to showcase them and the band and the incredible variety of Afro- Latin, straight ahead swing, funk, R&B, and rock rhythmic vocabulary that we are masters of and readily have at our disposal in the Multiverse, I believe VOX HUMANA will prove to be our greatest achievement. 

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: "Vox Humana"
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: “Vox Humana”

That repertoire has a personal meaning to me as I see VOX HUMANA as a biographical work. I’m a product of my environment. I’m a Nuyorican, a person of Puerto Rican descent growing up in New York City. In my case the South Bronx during a time period when pop, jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and Latin music of all kinds all co-existed as equals. It was the last era when the big bands of masters like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Don Ellis, and more were in the public eye, and they became my heroes. Vocalists who could deliver a message with subtlety, nuance, and when needed, power, were called upon to deliver poetry crafted by genius song writers. You’ll hear all that and more through the soaring vocals and improv talents of Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer, along with Oreste, as well as the incredible jazz-oriented arrangements and exciting Pan Afro-Latin rhythms played by a big band that literally takes no prisoners when it hits the stage.”

The repertoire Bobby speaks of includes 1 original and 12 unique re-workings of pop hits like Spooky, Christine Aguilera’s Genie In a Bottle, and Steely Dan’s Do It Again; NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s, Mi Congo and Puerto Rico along with the island’s greatest composer, Rafael Hernandez’s, Capullito De Aleli; the classic Joe Cuba R&B bolero, To Be With You; Brazilian standards Partido Alto and Amazonas; and from the world of Broadway theater, I Love You Porgy, and the iconic jump blues, Let The Good Times Roll. The CD also includes an original message bearing piece, Who Taught You That, as well as what may possibly be the most exciting interpretation of the Ellington associated classic, Caravan, and that has ever been recorded. 

Adding to the excitement of the performance, VOX HUMANA was recorded in front of a live audience. Bobby states, “As with our previous work, we recorded VOX HUMANA live at NYC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca – Cola. My musicians represent NYC’s finest. That means they’re the greatest in the world. The added level of excitement created by the audience inspired us in the MULTIVERSE Big Band to a heightened new level of performance virtuosity that listeners will hear explode out of the speakers just as the audience at Dizzy’s experienced in person.”

The history of the Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is indeed one based on his rich multi-cultural heritage as a Nuyorican growing up in New York City’s South Bronx. His concept of having a big band that has no genre boundaries with limitless possibilities was forged 25 years ago back in 1998. It has yielded a series of groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums that have all been Grammy-nominated with the band thrilling audiences worldwide at venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Ravinia Festival, Verona Jazz Festival in Europe, and more.

Content Source: Two for the Show Media

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