Born in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, pianist and composer Elio Villafranca was classically trained in percussion and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. He is a GRAMMY-Nominated Steinway Artist, and recipient of the 2014 Jazz At Lincoln Center Millennium Swing Award. 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. In 2015, Mr. Villafranca was among the 5 pianists hand-picked by Chick Corea to perform at the first Chick Corea Jazz Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
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, Lewis Nash, David Murray and Wynton Marsalis among others. 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.
Elio Villafranca’s album Caribbean Tinge (Motema), received a 2014 Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Nomination by the German Records Critics Award, as well has been selected by JazzTimes and DownBeat magazines for a feature on their very competitive section Editor’s Pick.
He has received a GRAMMY Nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year category and received the first NFA/Heineken Green Ribbon Master Artist Music Grant to compose his Concerto for Mariachi, for Afro-Cuban Percussion and Symphony Orchestra. In 2017, Elio Villafranca received The Sunshine Award to recognize excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries, South America, Central America, and Africa.