Elio Villafranca


out now



This double album is a five movement suite inspired by the story of Joseph Cinque, who in 1839 led a successful revolt aboard the slave ship La Amistad, days after being sold and transported to a sugar plantation in Cuba. Elio’s most ambitious project today, showcases the cultural diversity of the five Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, and Jamaica; while simultaneously high- lighting the Congolese musical heritage woven into the fabric of each of these diverse nations, and yet unified via the forced migration of Africans to the Americas.


Cinque received a 4.5 rating on Downbeat Magazine

Jun 28, 2018

By Eugene Holley Jr.

Pianist/composer Elio Villafranca is the latest in a decades-long line of Cuban musicians who has integrated African, European and Pan-American musical concepts. His two-disc set is a compelling and complex dedication to Cinque, the Sierra Leonean who led a bloody revolt aboard the Cuban-bound, slave ship Amistad in 1839 and later was freed by John Quincy Adams.

The ensemble here primarily consists of Villafranca’s group, The Jass Syncopaters. With a pianistic style that echoes Duke Ellington and McCoy Tyner, the bandleader narrates Cinque’s story with references to the Haitian Revolution and the free Maroon colonies of runaway slaves.


Elio Villafranca wins the 2018 Int’l Critics Poll Rising Star Keyboard Category.

Jun 25, 2018

By DownBeat

Pianist Vijay Iyer, singer-songwriter Cécile McLorin Salvant, flutist Nicole Mitchell, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, orchestra leader Maria Schneider and hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar are among the talented performers who topped multiple categories in the 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll.


Villafranca Examines History

Mar 13, 2018

By John Ephland

For five days in early May, Cuban pianist/composer Elio Villafranca set up shop at Systems Two, the state-of-the-art recording studio in Brooklyn, to record his sixth album, Cinqué (ArtistShare). The program, which includes five movements, contains music he had performed onstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2015.

The disc’s title refers to Joseph Cinqué (1814–’79), the West African man who led a revolt aboard the ship La Amistad, which was transporting Cinqué and others who had been captured as part of the slave trade.

Cinqué showcases,” Villafranca said, “the cultural diversity of the five Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, while simultaneously highlighting the African traditions woven into the fabric of each of these nations.”