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Elio Villafranca will perform in Lewiston. (Photo provided by Northwest Jazz Festival)
Elio Villafranca will perform in Lewiston. (Photo provided by Northwest Jazz Festival)

Northwest Jazz Fest brings top talent to Lewiston

Sat, Aug 18th 2018 07:00 am
The Northwest Jazz Festival, Lewiston, NY, has become one of the region's premier summer music events, with more than 40,000 visitors annually enjoying over 30 performances, culinary samplings and wine tastings along Center Street. Now in its 17th year, the 2018 edition is slated for Aug. 24-25. Headliners include Veronica Swift and The Benny Green Trio on Friday, and Elio Villafranca (pictured) and the Jass Syncopators on Saturday.
Swift is profiled in the cover story HERE.
Green, meanwhile, possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips. Combining mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real-world experience playing with Art Blakey - one of the most distinguished artists of the past half-century - it's no wonder Green has been hailed as perhaps the most revered hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
Acclaimed jazz pianist and Cuba native Villafranca created his ensemble, the Jass Syncopators, to explore the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that influenced the earliest jazz musicians in their approach to music while building upon his previous compositional work.
Soon after the legendary New Orleans pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton infused the roots of jazz with his so-called "Spanish Tinge" during the early 1900s, syncopated rhythmic patterns from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora began to play an important role in the entire foundation of jazz music. The incorporation of Afro-Caribbean rhythms began to show up in the work of jazz legends from Duke Ellington (working with Puerto Rican trombonist and composer Juan Tizol) to Dizzy Gillespie (in collaboration with the Cuban percussionist and composer Chano Pozo).
On his seventh studio album, "Caribbean Tinge," and the most recent release of "Cinque," Villafranca continues Ellington's syncopated approach to jazz music and Morton's "Spanish Tinge" concept, but applied to a more contemporary musical idiom.
Fusing distinct Afro-Caribbean musical traditions from four islands (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba) with 21st century jazz by connecting the performing musicians with different traditions drumming, the Jass Syncopators present an authentic cultural experience that explores the full spectrum of Caribbean music in connection with jazz. The lineup includes Steve Turre (trombone), Vincent Herring (alto sax), Peter Slavov (bass), Dion Parson (drums), Bruce Harris (trumpet), Gabo Lugo (percussion) and Villafranca (piano).
George Osborne, chairman of the Jazz Festival board, said, "The Jazz Festival continues to grow and improve each year. With the addition of Northwest as the naming sponsor last year, funds became available to upgrade the headliners as well as many of the other artists performing in the festival. This year's Saturday evening headliner, Elio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopators, are just releasing a new album and the Northwest Jazz Festival is the first stop on their upcoming world tour.
"Across the board, the quality of this year's performances raises the bar thanks to our music director, Tony Zambito, our many sponsors, our board of directors and our staff."
For more information, or for front-of-stage tickets to see the headline acts ($20 each), visit www.lewistonjazz.com.
Street Closing
To accommodate the Northwest Jazz Festival, Center Street will close from Fourth Street to Seventh Street at 5 a.m. Friday. The cross-streets will remain open (both north and south). Center Street will re-open at approximately 4 a.m. Sunday
Fifth Street will be closed at Ridge Street to Plain Street during these same hours. Only permitted vendor/festival vehicles will be allowed.
Businesses are reminded to make delivery arrangements ahead of time.

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