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Elio Villafranca at Philadelphia’s Painted Bride

The Cuban-born pianist's set was one of the year's highlights

Elio Villafranco
Elio Villafranca

I remember seeing and hearing Cuban-born pianist Elio Villafranca at the Mann Music Center a zillion years ago among a list of performers I don’t even remember. I didn’t know who he was. But I do recall as I was walking out (leaving mid-performance as the night grew chilly) a young man sitting down alone at the piano stage right. The music started and I froze in mid-step. Who is this? I wondered, then stayed.

Occasionally, I would see Elio around Philly playing with Bobby Zankel’s band Warriors of the Wonderful Sound at Ortliebs’ JazzHaus and with other musicians needing a solidly brilliant sideman. We were lucky to have him here for a time.

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