Elijah Jamal Balbed
Washington, DC's "Best New Jazz Musician" of 2010, member of BCJO and Donvonte McCoy Quintet, and one of the last sax players to play with the Godfather of GoGo, Chuck Brown.
Saxophonist and composer Elijah Jamal Balbed hails from Washington, DC, having studied
with the area's top educators Paul Carr, Charlie Young, and Fred Foss. Named Best New
Jazz Musician of 2010 by the Washington City Paper, Balbed's credits reach beyond the
district, having performed in several cities in the United States (Austin, Philadelphia, NYC,
to name a few), and in 4 cities in Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagano, and Karuizawa). Elijah
attended Howard University from 2008-2011, where he played in the Howard University
Jazz Ensemble (HUJE) and the HU Jazztet. At Howard, Elijah has appeared on 4 albums with
HUJE, 1 album with the Jazztet, and performed with Bunky Green, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah
Sanders, Bennie Maupin, and Larry Willis.
In May of 2011, Elijah had the rare opportunity to perform with music legend and
Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown. Over the next year, he served as a part-time member of
Mr. Brown's band until his passing in May of 2012, having performed with him in Raleigh,
Harrisburg, Richmond, Cramton Auditorium, 9:30 Club, LOVE, Ibiza, and several other local
Go-Go venues. In July of 2011, Elijah was given a residency at the legendary jazz club,
Bohemian Caverns. It was this residency that prompted the idea for a recording session.
This idea quickly spawned into 2 spirited recording dates in August, 2011, and a
successful Kickstarter Campaign in September, which led to the creation of Elijah's debut
album, "Checking In". The album was named #4 Best Jazz Album of 2012 by Capital Bop,
and the title track was a finalist in the jazz category of the 2013 International Songwriters
Elijah continues to perform with his own band, dubbed the "EJB Quintet". This group, with a
few variations, performed highly successful concerts at Bohemian Caverns, Kennedy
Center, and Strathmore. In addition to gigs as a leader, Elijah is also a current member of
the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra (BCJO), Donvonte McCoy Sextet, and the Chuck
Brown Tribute Band. Donvonte McCoy's band was named Best Jazz Small Group in 2012 by
the Washington City Paper. Also in 2012, BCJO received a Mayor's Arts Award for Best
In addition to his recent release as a leader, Elijah has appeared on albums such as "Bright
Moments", "Moonwalk", and "Ode to Life" (HUJE), "Reign" (HU Jazztet), "Dhyana" (Andrea
Wood), "Under the Sun" (Christos), "Cosmic Collisions" (Lydia Lewis), "Lovely Changes" (Lena
Seikaly), "Stairway to the Stars" (Integriti Reeves), and the film "Oxygen for the Ears" by Dr.
Stefan Immler, which also features Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding, Chuchito Valdes, and
the late Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson and Dr. Billy Taylor.
Most recently, Elijah was accepted into the Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program, a two-week
career development residency hosted by the Kennedy Center that Betty Carter started at
Brooklyn Academy of Music in the 1990's. The program is focused on jazz performance
and composition, and has an extensive list of notable alumni. Immediately following this
residency, Elijah jumped into another one at the historic DC club, Bohemian Caverns, where
he is featured every week for the month of April.
For more info on Elijah, go to www.elijahjamalbalbed.com.
My Jazz Story
In 5th grade my mother wanted me to play an instrument so bad that once we decided it was
sax I was going to play, she went out and bought (not rented) a horn. I didn't practice very
much at first. One early morning before school, that horn was left at a bus stop and I thought
it was gone forever. 3 weeks later, a homeless man who had retrieved the sax came up to me
and returned it. It was so miraculous, that I never had to be told to practice after that day.
Now I'm a full time musician!