Saxophonist and composer Elijah Jamal Balbed is a native of Washington, D.C. and has been named Best Tenor Saxophonist (2013) and Best New Jazz Musician (2010) by the Washington City Paper. Elijah cites his many teachers and mentors that steered him in the right direction, to name a few, Joan Rackey, Paul Carr, Charlie Young, and Fred Foss. Balbed's credits reach beyond the district, having performed in cities across the United States, as well as four cities in Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagano, and Karuizawa). Elijah attended Howard University, where he was a featured soloist in the Howard University Jazz Ensemble (HUJE) and regular member of the HU Jazztet. As a student he appeared on five albums with the groups and performed with Bunky Green, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Bennie Maupin, and Larry Willis.
In 2011, Balbed was given the rare opportunity to perform as a part-time band member for music legend and Godfather of Go-Go, the late Mr. Chuck Brown. He performed with Mr. Brown from May of 2011 until his death in May of 2012. Through his connection with the Godfather, Elijah was invited to New Orleans in 2012 to perform at Tipitinas with the Backyard Band (BYB) as a part of "HBO's Treme vs. The Wire: Battle of the Bands". BYB and Baltimore pianist Lafayette Gilchrist represented The Wire and NOLA-based bands Galactic and The Stooges represented Treme. The event was hosted by Wendell Pierce and Michael K. Williams, and coincidentally was just about a week before Chuck Brown passed.
"Elijah brings with him a deep sense of tradition, but one also hears a kaleidoscope of free flowing ideas, delivered on a golden platter, replete with a burly, and easy sound"..."Like a warm fire on a cold winter night"
-Craig Handy, Saxophonist/Educator (Roy Haynes, Herbie Hancock, The Cookers)
For several years Balbed has been a resident artist at the legendary jazz club, Bohemian Caverns. In addition to being a charter member of the club's house band, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra (2010-2014), he has served as Artist-in-Residence at the club in July, 2011 and in April, 2013. The first residency led to the recording of his debut album, Checking In, which has been critically acclaimed in the area. The title track awarded Elijah as a finalist in the 2013 International Songwriters Competition, and is also used as a jingle on DC’s only jazz radio station, WPFW.
Balbed was a participant in the Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency program in 2013, the first class under the direction of Jason Maron. In the residency program, Elijah also worked with Craig Handy, Marc Cary, Carmen Lundy, Peven Everett, Nate Smith, and the late Dwayne Burno. Elijah recently finished a residency at Strathmore, which concluded with two public concerts and an educational workshop. During the residency, Elijah premiered a new band, The JoGo Project, as well as recorded a new straight-ahead jazz album entitled "Lessons From the Streets". The album features special guests Alex "Pope" Norris on trumpet and Warren Wolf on vibraphone, and is expected to release in early 2015. Join the mailing list to receive updates on the album's progress!