Delfeayo Marsalis (pronounced DEL-fee oh) is one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today. Known for his “technical excellence, inventive mind and frequent touches of humor…” (Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times), he is “…one of the best, most imaginative and musical of the trombonists of his generation.” (Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner.) In January 2011, Delfeayo and the Marsalis family (father Ellis and brothers Branford, Wynton and Jason) earned the nation’s highest jazz honor – a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award. Born in New Orleans on July 28, 1965, Marsalis was destined to a life in music. “I remember my dad (Ellis Marsalis) playing piano at the house, and me laying underneath the piano as a child, listening to him play. After briefly trying bass and drums, in sixth grade I gravitated towards the trombone, which was an extension of my personality. .” Early influences included J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn, Tommy Dorsey and Ellington’s trombone masters. Marsalis attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school, was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute, and majored in both performance and audio production at Berklee College of Music. He earned a Masters degree in jazz performance at the University of Louisville and was conferred a doctorate by New England College. About the time that he first started playing trombone, Marsalis was already greatly interested in the recording process. “Branford showed me how to create a feedback loop on a reel to reel machine and I was hooked! When I was in seventh grade, Wynton challenged me to create home recordings of him that had the same quality as trumpet virtuoso Maurice Andre's classical studio recordings. It was all trial and error and I discovered a process and logic that I still use while recording today.” Delfeayo recorded demo tapes for his brothers and schoolmates and served an internship at (pianist Allen Toussaint’s) Sea Saint Studio. From the age of 17 until the present, he has produced over 100 recordings for major artists including Harry Connick, Jr, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his father and brothers. Marsalis is an exceptional trombonist who has toured internationally with his own groups, as well as those led by five renowned bandleaders. “Art Blakey taught me patience and purpose in soloing; Abdullah Ibrahim's sense of harmony is prevalent in much of my music; Slide Hampton inspired me with his extraordinary command of the trombone and the language of jazz; and Max Roach played with conviction and dexterity all the time. Elvin Jones (who is featured on Delfeayo’s 2006 CD Minions Dominion) taught me about humanity, expressing myself through music, and most importantly, how to keep time.” The lessons of these legendary artists can be heard throughout Delfeayo’s compositions and improvisations still today. As a composer and arranger, Delfeayo has always shown a flair for the dramatic. His debut CD Pontius Pilate’s Decision (1992) was inspired by biblical tales, and 2010’s stunning Sweet Thunder gives the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn suite Such Sweet Thunder a modern day makeover. Rather than merely recreating the classic work, which is comprised of musical depictions of characters from William Shakespeare's plays, Marsalis took the work as a point of departure for his octet, creating fresh and new music with inspired performances. Sweet Thunder earned a place on numerous top CDs of the year lists and wide critical acclaim including 4 stars in USA Today and 5 stars in the Financial Times. Marsalis also created an original theatrical jazz production, Sweet Thunder: Duke & Shak, which toured widely in 2011. He recently served as Music Producer for the upcoming film Bolden!, a mythical account of the life of Buddy Bolden, the first Cornet King of New Orleans. Among Delfeayo’s six CDs as a leader are the 1997 quintet date Musashi, which was praised by the All Music Guide for its “passionate originals… willingness to take chances and stretch himself and the result is consistently stirring post-bop music.” The Last Southern Gentlemen (2014) is his first album-length collaboration with his father, Ellis. Incorporating Delfeayo’s writings—including an essay on the sociological/historical themes that define the recording, commentary on the music, and original stories, children’s tales and poetry—The Last Southern Gentlemen saw New Orleans jazz royalty combine for an album of swinging playing and sociological heft. The CD earned rave reviews including 4.5 stars from Monarch Magazine. As Jennifer Odell writes in DownBeat, “Throughout the album, the performers prioritize warmth, tranquility and restraint while imbuing melodies and solos with the lyrical sentiments at the heart of the original music.” And Marc Myers of JazzWax writes, “Marsalis exhibits a beautiful tone throughout as he's accompanied by his father and pianist Ellis Marsalis, bassist John Clayton and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith. A contemplative, embracing release from top to bottom.” Marsalis has also been long involved in work as an educator. To inspire New Orleans youth through arts education, Delfeayo founded the Uptown Music Theatre in 2000 and has implemented its Kidstown After School in three New Orleans grammar schools. Delfeayo released Live at Jazz Fest 2011 with The Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and in 2014, he took the group to Africa to perform at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz event. In addition, he has composed over 80 songs that help introduce kids to jazz through musical theatre and has reached over 5,000 students nationally with his Swinging with the Cool School soft introduction to jazz workshops.
Elijah Jamal Balbed
Saxophonist, composer, educator, and activist Elijah Jamal Balbed is a native of Washington, DC, currently splitting his time between DC and New York. An alumnus of Howard University's legendary Jazz program, Elijah has since been named Artist of the Year (2016), Best Tenor Saxophonist (2013) and Best New Jazz Musician (2010) by the Washington City Paper, and has participated in residencies at the Kennedy Center (Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead), Strathmore, Bohemian Caverns, and a month-long stint at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in Doha, Qatar. In addition to the Middle East, music has taken Elijah all over the world including places like Japan, Jamaica, South America, London, and many states in the US. Over the last decade, he has established himself as a versatile saxophonist, having performed with artists ranging from Nicholas Payton, Winard Harper, and Cyrus Chestnut, all the way to Lalah Hathaway, Eric Benet, The Blackbyrds, and Dr. John. Elijah is best known for having worked regularly with the late, great, Godfather of Go-Go music, Chuck Brown for the last year of his life.
In 2012, Elijah released his debut album "Checking In", the title track awarding him a semi-finalist slot in the International Songwriting Competition (2012). On International Jazz Day of 2015, Elijah released his second album - an homage to the DC jazz scene and community, this one entitled "Lessons From the Streets". Both albums were named among the best jazz albums their respective years by Capital Bop, the leading jazz publication in DC.
In addition to jazz, Elijah is equally dedicated to the preservation of Go-Go music - Washington, DC's indigenous style of music. Through working with Mr. Chuck Brown, Elijah developed a passion and love for Go-Go and has a band dedicated to combining elements Jazz and Go-Go musics called The JoGo Project. The band has been highly acclaimed in DC and the surrounding areas, having performed at venues such as Strathmore, Kennedy Center, Mount St Mary's University, and festivals such as the Funk Parade, H Street Festival, and Art All Night, to name a few. Collaborations have included Frank Sirius, Christie Dashiell, Warren Wolf, Greg Boyer, R&B artist Cecily, tap dancer Joseph Webb, and rapper Javier Starks.
Elijah is a voting member of the DC Chapter of the Recording Academy, as well as a member of Local 161-710, the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Federation of Musicians.