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CINQUE, which celebrates the roots of the Afro diaspora in the Caribbean by Afro-Cuban Jazz pianist and composer Elio Villafranca  

July 18, 2020  4pm PT

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The talk will be about the creation of my latest suite entitled CINQUE, which celebrates the roots of the Afro diaspora in the Caribbean. The music for this album was created to honor the story and bravery of Joseph CINQUE, who became a symbol of the fight for freedom, not only in the U.S. but in the Caribbean. The program in this talk will include sharing research videos from my own personal archive, audio files, and live performance of some of the pieces composed for this suite.


Story of Cinque

Joseph Cinque, formerly known as Sengbe Pieh, a West African man of the Mende people, was born in 1814 as a free man in the country of Sierra Leone. At age 25, Cinque was illegally captured and forced to board a slave ship bound to Havana, Cuba. In June 1839, Cinque was sold in Havana along with 53 other African slaves and shipped to Puerto Principe, Cuba. Three days later in the midst of a storm, Cinque used sugar-cane knives found in the hold of the ship, and with the other slaves’ help, carried out a mutiny on the Cuban schooner, La Amistad. Cinque ordered the Cubans to sail La Amistad east back to Africa. After nearly two horrific months at sea during a period known as the “black schooner,” where more than a dozen Africans perished, the ship was spotted on August 26, 1839, by the American vessel USS Washington off the coast of New York, and escorted to New London, Connecticut. On March 9, 1841, the Supreme Court, with only one dissent, ruled that the Africans had been illegally enslaved and had thus exercised a natural right to fight for their freedom. In November of that same year, with the financial assistance of their abolitionist allies, the emancipated Africans departed America aboard the Gentleman on a voyage back to West Africa.



Elio Villafranca: Born in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, 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 has been 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. Elio Villafranca’s album Caribbean Tinge (Motema), received a 2014 Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Nomination by the German Records Critics Award, as well as being selected by JazzTimes and DownBeat magazines for a feature in their very competitive section Editor’s Pick. He also received a 2010 Grammy Nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year category. In 2008, The Jazz Corner nominated Elio Villafranca as pianist of the year. That year, Mr. Villafranca was also honored by BMI with the BMI Jazz Guaranty Award and received the first NFA/Heineken Green Ribbon Master Artist Music Grant for the creation of his Concerto for Mariachi, for Afro-Cuban Percussion and Symphony Orchestra. Finally, his first album, Incantations/ Encantaciones, featuring Pat Martino, Terell Stafford, and Dafnis Prieto was ranked amongst the 50 best jazz albums of the year by JazzTimes magazine in 2003. 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. In 2017 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. In 2018 his double album entitled Cinque was nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Latin Jazz Album. He also won the 2018 Int’l Critics Poll Rising Star Keyboard Category and is listed again as 2019 Rising Star in the Piano Category. 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. 

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