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Before & After with Francesco Cafiso

At the Rigas Ritmi festival with the Sicilian saxman

Francesco Cafiso and JazzTimes writer Thomas Conrad in Latvia

Most child prodigies in jazz are pianists. Francesco Cafiso of Sicily could do astonishing things with an alto saxophone when he was 9. At 11, he won his first international jazz competition. At 12, he played the Pescara Jazz Festival in Italy with Wynton Marsalis, who brought Cafiso along on his 2003 European tour.

I first heard Cafiso at the Umbria Jazz Melbourne festival in Australia in May of 2005. It was an unprecedented experience to hear ideas of extraordinary complexity and logical elegance from a 15-year-old barely over 5 feet tall. Cafiso’s sound was a gigantic, brilliant, wake-the-dead cry, and his fluency in hardcore bop proved how it is an ageless form of communication.

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