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Elio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopators: Caribbean TInge

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Born in Cuba and classically trained, pianist Elio Villafranca has long offered a unique take on Latin jazz, foregoing the reliance on percussion pyrotechnics for a more fully integrated blend of his varied interests. That’s not to say that he can’t bring the fire when it’s called for, as he does on “Mambo Vivo,” a lively tribute to Pérez Prado on his new CD, which was recorded live in 2012 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

But more often he combines elements of jazz and Afro-Caribbean music with the architectural insight born of his classical training, which leads to more intriguing combinations and juxtapositions. On Caribbean Tinge, Villafranca imports rhythms from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba and filters them through three different permutations of his Jass Syncopators ensemble. That band brings stellar jazz players together with a trio of percussionists to fuse passion with complexity.

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