MUSIC - Elijah Jamal Balbed - Saxophonist, Composer


Elijah is a native of Washington, D.C. In a Washingtonian Magazine article, he said he first wanted to become a martial artist, but in high school his enthusiasm and interest was captured by his desire to play music. He immersed himself in the pursuit of music as a career and the fruit of his efforts were realized.

"In 2007, Elijah earned a Maryland Distinguished Scholar award, an Overall Best Soloist award in the Maryland Band Director’s Association Big Band Festival, and a Best Soloist award at the 2008 Festival Disney Jazz competition." Elijah was recognized for his abilities by the Washingtonian Magaine in 2009, and twice by the Washington City Paper, which in 2010 named Elijah "Best New Jazz Musician" and then in 2013 the paper named him "Best Tenor Saxophonist."

The Karma Suite Mvmt I: Societal Regression

In an interview on JazzCast, he says he began taking private lessons from Saxophonist Paul Carr while attending Albert Einstein High School, and with the encouragement of his private tutor and school teacher, Joan Rackey, he began taking his music more seriously and decided to actively pursue a musical career as a life goal.

In 2011 he began performing with the "Godfather of GoGo", Chuck Brown, and became a part-time member of the band. In 2012, through his connection with Chuck Brown, he was invited to perform at Tipitinas (New Orleans) with the Back Yard Band (BYB) in "HBO's Treme vs. The Wire: Battle of the Bands"

In 2013, he participated in the Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency program in which he worked with Craig Handy, Marc Cary, Carmen Lundy, Peven Everett, Nate Smith, and the late Dwayne Burno.

In 2014, he completed a residency at Strathmore, during which he premiered a new band, "The JoGo Project," and recorded a straight-ahead jazz album entitled "Lessons From the Streets", with a release date in 2015. ~

Sources: Articles (below) and website bio



Elijah Jamal Balbed takes ‘Karma Suite’ to Kennedy Center
"When Elijah Jamal Balbed premiered the “The Karma Suite,” his first long-form composition, at the final Union Arts D.C. Jazz Loft in 2016, it was an incredible moment of catharsis for the saxophonist. Writing the suite broke a months-long writer’s block that weighed on the D.C. native since the release of his 2015 album Lessons from the Streets (Disclosure: CapitalBop editor-in-chief Giovanni Russonello wrote the liner notes). And Balbed had been deeply unsettled by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, which for him threatened to undo the social progress made under the Obama presidency; composing "The Karma Suite" allowed him to channel those feelings to a creative end." ~ Jackson Sinnenberg-





Elijah Jamal Balbed - Checking In (2013)   "The young tenor titan Elijah Jamal Balbed has finally released an album as a leader. “Finally” is a funny sort of qualification for a 22-year-old, but Balbed has been a prominent member of the D.C. jazz community since he was a teenager. It really is a wonder that this recording didn’t come sooner." ~ Luke Stewart -

Elijah Jamal Balbed's Checkin' In Today - Checking In (2013)  "One of the Washington DC area's most accomplished young musicians is saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed. At jams, performances with other artists and his own engagements, he has displayed a robust style displaying a musical maturity way beyond his years. He issued recently his first recording as a leader Checking In where he is joined by some of the DC area's most accomplished musicians including pianists Harry Appelman and Allyn Johnson, trumpeters Alex Norris and Donvonte McCoy, bassists Eric Wheeler and Zach Brown, guitarist Samir Moulay, and drummers Carroll Vaughn Dashiell III.".  ~ Ron W -


Smithsonian Magazine

The Making of a Millennial Jazz Musician: Elijah Jamal Balbed

"When I met Elijah Jamal Balbed, he was 19, wailed like an old bebopper, and had already been named “Best New Jazz Musician of 2010? by Washington City Paper. He’d been recruited for a Jazz Appreciation Month performance at Meridian International to honor the Cold War jazz diplomacy of jazz masters like Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck. Along with jazz kids, ages 9 to 20, Balbed comprised an impromptu quintet that quickly owned the bandstand, following a performance by star bassist Esperanza Spalding." ~ Smithsonian magazine

Washington CityPaper

Elijah Balbed Named a Finalist in International Songwriting Competition

"The International Songwriting Competition, an annual contest (now in its 12th year) for composers that presents awards in 22 categories, announced its finalists last weekend. Among the 325 names on the list, there is exactly one from the District: tenor saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed, a finalist in the Jazz category for his tune "Checking In." ~

Washingtonian Magazine

Local Listens: Elijah Jamal Balbed (2009)

"When he was a kid growing up in Silver Spring, all saxophone player Elijah Jamal Balbed wanted to be was a karate fighter. The dream was even somewhat plausible—he got a second-degree black belt when he was 12—but in high school, when he began playing jazz seriously, he decided to change career paths." ~


Elijah Jamal Balbed Quintet - Infant Eyes (2016)

"So What" Elijah Balbed, Noble Jolley solos

Inner Urge - Griff Kazmierczak, trumpet - Live at UMD - March 2013