Elio Villafranca



cinque, 2018 – 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.




Vincent Herring                         alto saxophone + soprano saxophone + flute
Greg Tardy                                  tenor saxophone + clarinet
Todd Marcus                              bass clarinet

Freddie Hendrix
Steve Turre                                 trombone + bass trombone + conch shells

Elio Villafranca
                         piano + maracas + guataca + campana + coros
Ricky Rodriguez                         acoustic bass
Lewis Nash                                 drum set

Arturo Stable                             batá drums + congas + palo drum or atabales + agogo bells + bombo + coros
Miguel Valdes                            batá drums + congas + bombo + coros
Jonathan Troncoso                   palo drum or atabales + valsié drum+ barril drum
Nelson Mateo Gonzales          barril drum + palo drum or atabales

Wynton Marsalis                       trumpet solos in La Burla de Los Congos + The Night at Bwa Kay Man
Leyla McCalla                             singer on Mési Bondye
Don Vappie                                 banjo on Mési Bondye
Alexander Lasalle                     Rezo Congo and vocals in Maluagda + The Capture + La Burla de Los Congos
Alexander Waterman              cello in Troubled Waters + Indigo
Roberta Brenza                         coros in Conga y Comparsa


On Any Given Night in Havana – 2019/2020 RELEASE!

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This project celebrates Cuba’s vibrant musical era of the 1950s and the legendary descargas lead by the group Los Amigos and the entire musical revolution generated by this ensemble. Elio’s ensemble pays tribute to Cuba’s most celebrated congero and member of Los Amigos Tata Güines, while bringing to life the musical genres of Son, Danzon, Cha-cha-cha, Boleros, and Guarachas, played at the famous Club Tropicana and harkening back to a Golden era of music, that made these nights an unforgettable experience in Havana.



Itai Kriss  flute
Dick Oatts alto saxophone
Elio Villafranca piano
Ray Martinez baby bass
Luisito Quiteros timbal + cumaco drum
Arturo Stable congas + chekeré
Claudia Acuna vocal.

Caribbean Tinge  - Elio Villafranca & The Jass Syncopators


Ever since the jazz was created in the clubs and dancehalls of New Orleans, there was always a significant influence from the Caribbean region, specifically from Cuba. The island, which was just a ferry ride from the port city, had such a significant effect on the development of the music that Jelly Roll Morton always spoke of the importance of Afro-Cuban based rhythms (the Spanish Tinge) in creating and performing this nascent music.



Elio Villafranca piano
Sean Jones trumpet (2, 3,8,9) 
Greg Tardy tenor saxophone (2,3,8,9)
Gregg August bass (2,3,8,9)
Willie Jones III drums (2,3,8,9)
Terell Stafford trumpet (4,5,6,7)
Vincent Herring alto saxophone (4,5,6,7)
Carlos Henriquez bass (4,5,6,7)
Lewis Nash drums (4,5,6,7)
Anthony Carrillo congas/barril (7)
Jonathon Troncoso balsie drum/bongos (4,5,6,7)
Juango Gutierrez barriles (2,4,5,6)
Nelson “Mateo” Gonzalez barriles (2,4,5,6)
Camilo Molina-Gaetan barriles (2,4,5,6) 


Old Waters New River


“Shakespeare famously claimed that there’s nothing new under the sun. But if he heard this combination of Greek and Cuban music, he would be forced to reconsider. This is the mash-up of the year, yet the integration of these two distinct musical cultures is handled with effortless fluency, almost as if Athens and Havana were sister cities.”

-The Daily Beast, The Best New Records of 2014




Elio Villafranca piano
Spiros Exaras guitar

Dos y Mas

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Unusual maturity and erudition appear to flow through the music of this album and whether this is a result of the fact that each is sensitive to the demands and characteristics of the other’s instrument is a moot point here. However, the rarity and exquisite nature of their collaboration shines through and makes this more than merely an outstanding feature of this album. It also shows how four hands can multiply exponentially as Elio Villafranca’s and Arturo Stable’s dazzle as they fly and move quietly and surreptitiously across keys and skins in a flurry of activity. This is, quite simply, craftsmanship at its finest and it goes beyond mere technique, as the word “craftsmanship” may suggest.



Elio Villafranca piano
Arturo Stable percussion


Dynamic Resolution


Villafranca connected with his friend bassist Charles Flores, also Cuban-born and classically trained, the two have come up with a dreamy, atmospheric set that at times swings carefree with lift-off Latin energy and at other times digs deeply into introspection and reverie. The result is a four extended composition album packed with musical and mood twists, turns and surprises that move from high drama, to the existential to the celebratory. The title tune was a spontaneous improvisation that the two experienced, virtuosic musicians consider a not to be duplicated near-miracle. At least they haven’t dared to try.

16 Eyes LP 001 180g stereo and mono LPs





Elio Villafranca piano
Charles Flores bass

Flower by the Dry River


The double LP set is but one of many DirectGrace D2D records produced by Sound-Smith's founder Peter Ledermann to benefit a charity dedicated to helping some 215 million exploited children around the world enduring child labor, or abandoned to the streets due to the AIDS epidemic and other public health catastrophes.

All of the money collected as a result of the sale of this double record set pressed at RTI goes to the charity. The album was produced by (which is to say funded by a generous contribution from) Robin Wyatt, a dedicated audiophile and importer of brands including the Miyajima Labs phono cartridges.

Mr. Villafranca, influenced by Duke Ellington—particularly his very first ensemble "the Colored Syncopators" formed in 1917— has written seven tunes for the album, all of which are moody, melodic and of course heavily syncopated. He's arranged the tunes for his group The Jass Syncopators, an extraordinarily talented septet heavy on percussion.

The John Herrick Jackson Memorial Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of DirectGrace Records, receiving its profits and donations and distributing them to children’s charities.




Elio Villafranca piano
Bruce Harris trumpet
Vincent Herring alto sax
JD Allen tenor sax
Greg August bass
Victor Lewis  drums
Juango Gutierrez barril
Camilo Molina barril

The Source In Between


The Source In Between explores and challenged the boundaries of melody, compositions and musical forms between jazz and Latin jazz. In this project, Villafranca displays an ability to combine the emotional values of conventional Latin pianism with some of the cerebral ones of bop, post-bop and free jazz, finding a new territory in which to inhabit.


Elio Villafranca piano
Eric Alexander tenor saxophone
Dafnis Prieto drums
Jeff Carney acoustc bass
Yosvanny Terry alto/soprano saxophone (8, 9)
Arturo Stable hand percussion and tumbadoras (9, 10)
Ferenc Nemeth drums (5)



This album focused on the influence of Cuban folkloric music within jazz.

In Incantations/Encantaciones, Elio Villafranca expands his compositional horizons by approaching American jazz, Latin jazz, and Latin American folkloric musical genres as inextricably linked. Supported by a powerhouse rhythm section and the tremendous contributions of Pat Martino, Terell Stafford, and Jane Bunnett, Villafranca storms the Latin Jazz scene with a debut album that is at once tightly orchestrated, compositionally impressive, and improvisationally rich.



Elio Villafranca piano
Pat Martino guitar
Terell Stafford Trumpet & flugelhorn
Jane Bunnett Soprano sax & flutes
Dafnis Prieto Drums
Carlos Henriquez Acoustic Bass
Wilson Corniel Congas & bata drums
Pedrito Martinez Vocals & bata drums (1)
Giovana Guevara vocals (5).