The band includes Vince Herring (alto saxophone), Bruce Harris (trumpet), Steve Turre (trombone), Ricky Rodriguez (bass), Dion Parson (drums) and Miguelito Valdes (congas), together with a string quartet formed by Dana Lyn (violin), Kiku Enomoto (violin), Judith Insell (viola) and Alex Waterman (cello).Internationally acclaimed Senegalese-American drummer Abdou Mboup will add authentic African percussion on the kora as well as vocals. Cuban-American songbird Venissa Santi will perform vocals. The evening is presented by the City College Center for the Arts (CCCA).
The program will bring together musical traditions of Africa and American Jazz! In addition to Villafranca’s original compositions (which include the New York premiere of Calle Paula and La Promesa) and those of Mboup, the group will perform unique arrangements of music by American artists Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Dr. Lonnie Smith and Cuban artists Enrique Jorrin (inventor of cha-cha-chá), Cristóbal Doval, and Celina y Reutilio, among others. The set will have you moving to the rhythms and the beat!
The concept for the concert stems from my childhood when I would send regular letters to my father who was working as an economist in Angola. Soon the weekly exercise seemed less like writing to my dad and more like writing letters to Africa itself,” said Villafranca. “Later, as a musician, knowing that Africa is regarded as the Motherland and hearing certain compositions celebrating African traditions or heritage, it seemed to me that the artists were joining me in writing letters to Africa.”
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Among the vanguard of the new guard of Cuban pianists, composers and bandleaders, the classically trained Villafranca has been a force in both the East Coast and West Coast jazz scenes. The Grammy-nominated artist and Steinway artist was recently among the five pianists Chick Corea hand-picked to perform at the inaugural Chick Corea Jazz Festival, curated by Corea himself at JALC. He has performed internationally with jazz masters such as Corea, Pat Martino, Terell Stafford, Billy Hart, Paquito D’Rivera, Eric Alexander, Lewis Nash and David Murray. As a sideman, he has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, Billy Harper, Sonny Fortune, Giovanni Hidalgo, Miguel Zenón and Johnny Pacheco and more.
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