“Steinway piano is my choice of instrument because allows my voice to be heard when its either soft and strong, offering no limits to express myself as a pianist.”
Born in the province of Pinar del Río, Cuba, Steinway Artist, pianist and composer Elio Villafranca was classically trained in piano, 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. Elio has been selected for two years consecutively by Downbeat Critic’s Poll as a Rising Stars. In 2019 Downbeat Critic’s Poll, named him a Rising Stars pianist and included him in an article, among three other pianists, called “A New Golden Age of Pianists.” Elio was also the winner of the 2018 Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Rising Stars in the Keyboard Category. Furthermore, Elio Villafranca has received Two GRAMMY Nominations, his first in 2009 as a producer and his second in 2018 with his double album CINQUE (Artistshare). In 2017 Elio Villafranca became the first Cuban born recipient of 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, and in 2014 Jazz at Lincoln Center awarded him with their first Millennium Swing Award! as well as receiving that year a Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Nomination by the German Records Critics Award for his album Caribbean Tinge (Motema).
Over the years Elio Villafranca has recorded and performed nationally and internationally as a leader. His music has featured jazz master artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Paquito D’Rivera, Jon Faddis, Christian McBride, among others. He has also performed with Chick Corea, Sonny Fortune, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Johnny Pacheco to name a few. Elio Villafranca is based in New York City and he is a faculty member at Temple University in Philadelphia, The Juilliard School of Music, New York University, and Manhattan School of Music in NYC.
“Pianist and composer Elio Villafranca is an inspired and visionary musician. With his band, The Jass Syncopators, Elio expands what Jelly Roll Morton called The Spanish Tinge to what Elio calls The Caribbean Tinge. The band swings hard and brings a traditional yet innovative style to the roots of jazz and Afro Caribbean music. I am profoundly moved by Elio's vision and musicianship. He is a treasured member of the family here at Jazz at Lincoln Center.” - Wynton Marsalis
“Elio’s music is passionate. A brand new application of ancient ways.” - Chick Corea
“[Elio Villafranca] writes and plays with passion and a deep understanding of musical nuance, with chops equal to some of the greatest pianists Cuba has ever produced.” - DownBeat Magazine