Born in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, Steinway Artist, Grammy Nominated, and 2014 Jalc Millennium Swing Award! recipient pianist and composer Elio Villafranca was classically trained in percussion and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba.
Since his arrival in the U.S. in mid 1995, Elio Villafranca is at the forefront of the latest generation of remarkable pianists, composers and bandleaders. His concert Letters to Mother Africa was selected by NYC Jazz Record as Best Concerts in 2016. In 2015, Mr. Villafranca was among the 5 pianists hand picked by Chick Corea to perform at the first Chick Corea Jazz Festival, curated by Chick himself at JALC.
Over the years Elio 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 Lewis Nash, David Murray, and Wynton Marsalis among other. As a sideman Elio Villafranca has collaborated with leading jazz and Latin jazz artists including: Chick Corea, Jon Faddis, Billy Harper, Sonny Fortune, Giovanni Hidalgo, Miguel Zenón, and Johnny Pacheco among others.
Elio Villafranca received The Sunshine Award, founded in 1989 to recognize excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries, South America, Centro America, and Africa. He is based in New York City and he is a faculty member of Temple University, Philadelphia, The Juilliard School of Music, New York University, and Manhattan School of Music in NYC.
Opening Act: Orquesta Espada
Orquesta Espada is considered by many to be the top Salsa/Jazz band to come out of the CT region. The full orchestra is comprised of 11 members, which utilizes a wide range of original Salsa & Brazilian rhythms to create a spicy brand of music. Espada has headlined many festivals and have performed and opened for such greats as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Claudio Roditi, Roy Ayers, and others. The band was formed in 1982 by Ray Santiago, William Fluker, Doug Long, and Ivan Santiago.