Eli Yamin Blues Band plays the blues to dispel the blues. Celebrating the release of their debut recording, I Feel So Glad, this ensemble welcomes audiences of all ages into the varied and rich world of America’s primary musical art form—the blues. The band explores the range and healing power of the blues from spiritual to classical, from bebop to folk. In some instances, the music is folksy, fiery and brassy. In others, it is quiet and curing. Pianist Eli Yamin and his group explore the blues’ unique capacity to bring people together of all different backgrounds. In “A Healing Song,” by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, they sing with audiences, “It’s not just a song for me/ Take a breath and you will see/ Why the blues has the power to be/ A healing song/ A healing song.”
In addition to being spirited performers, members of Eli Yamin Blues Band are also skilled educators. During their workshops, audiences gain insights into the cultural and spiritual origins of the blues and get involved with the music by singing, stomping and clapping along.
In 2012, The Eli Yamin Blues Band performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and toured Russia including performances at two International Arts Festivals, The St. Petersburg Jazz Festival and Spaso House, the U.S. Ambassadors residence. The band has also toured as U.S. cultural ambassadors in the Balkans, Guatemala, Brazil and Chile, part of an Earthquake Relief Tour on the Rhythm Road, a program co-sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State. Performances range from the most highly watched TV shows to neighborhood schools and castle ruins. “It’s amazing to hear ‘A Healing Song’ in all languages,” says bandleader Yamin. “Seems like people know the blues wherever we go. What a joy and privilege to see people jumping in with hands and feet and relating their own personal experiences to this ancient and modern music.” The band’s debut CD, I Feel So Glad, features the band’s anthem “A Healing Song,” as well as a startling new arrangement of “Hound Dog,” originally made famous by Elvis Presley and Big Mama Thornton and the Billy Taylor classic, “I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free,” made famous by Nina Simone.
Eli Yamin (piano and voice) is a jazz and blues pianist, singer producer and educator. Raised in the bands of jazz masters Walter Perkins, Illinois Jacquet and Barry Harris, his joyful and imaginative piano playing have taken him around the world with his own groups as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State and led him to perform and teach at the Obama White House. Yamin co-founded The Jazz Drama Program, which uplifts students, teachers and their communities through interactive experiences in the jazz arts—storytelling, music, theatre, dance and visual arts. Yamin’s compositions like “A Healing Song,” about the healing power of the blues, and “Rwandan Child” about the wisdom of children awaken audiences shared sense of humanity, love and joy.
Bob Stewart (tuba) is a freelance concert artist, studio musician and educator. As a professional tuba player, he has recorded with groups led by Gil Evans, Frank Foster, Carla Bley, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Sam Rivers, Henry Threadgill, Arthur Blythe, Lester Bowie, Howard Johnson, Don Cherry, and Nicholas Payton. In addition, Stewart has taught in the public schools of Philadelphia and New York for over 25 years. He has recently retired, after 10 years, as the Director of Jazz Studies at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts and is now Distinguished Lecturer at Lehman College Music Department and a faculty member of The Juilliard School. Stewart received his Bachelor of Music Education from the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and his Master in Education at Lehman College Graduate School.
LaFrae Sci (drummer) works with Eli at Jazz at Lincoln Center and performed with him at the Obama White House. She brings experience in the fields of pop, hip-hop, jazz, rock and blues to the group and has shared the stage with blues veterans including Pinetop Perkins and Robert Lockwood, Jr. LaFrae is a member of the Black Rock Coalition, toured internationally with the 17-piece female orchestra The Daughters of Nina Simone, leads her own band and writes her own songs. She believes music can heal the world and is a particular inspiration to young musicians all over the globe.
Charenee Wade (voice), alternate for Ms. McGarry, grew up in Brooklyn, New York and began singing at a young age, inspired by Sarah Vaughan. In 2010, she released her debut CD, Love Walked In, and won second place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition. In 2006, she completed a Master’s Degree at Manhattan School of Music and the following year performed her original music at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Charenee sings at various venues in New York City, including the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, the Jazz Gallery and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. She has toured Europe, performing at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and will be featured in the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival in Idaho in 2011.
Kate McGarry (voice) is a Grammy nominated vocalist, composer and arranger on the Palmetto Records label and has 4 critically acclaimed recordings. An integral part of the NYC jazz scene for over a decade, McGarry is known as a leader in the field of contemporary jazz voice has recorded and toured with such legends as Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, and Maria Schneider Orchestra. She has appeared on NPR,’s All Things Considered, Piano Jazz, and Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Kate teaches at the Manhattan School Of Music and enjoys working with the Master’s of Jazz Voice candidates. She tours and teaches internationally and currently resides in Durham N.C. with her guitarist husband, Keith Ganz. Kate received her Bachelor’s Degree in Afro American Music and Jazz from the University Of Massachusetts in Amherst where she studied with renown saxophonist Archie Shepp and noted Gospel Music scholar, Dr Horace Boyer.
Ben Stapp (tuba), alternate for Mr. Stewart, is on the forefront in New York’s creative music scene. With his debut CD release featuring Tony Malaby and Satoshi Takeishi, he has received a critic’s pic from the New York Times and honorable mention in the Village Voice. All About Jazz praised, “most certainly one to watch,” and “a debut of a fresh new sound.”
Chanell Crichlow (tuba), alternate for Mr. Stewart, is a native New Yorker and spent most of her childhood on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. She toured Montenegro, Albania, Romania and Greece with the Eli Yamin Blues Band on the Rhythm Road in 2009. From a young age Crichlow was aware of the power of music and soon gravitated to the tuba as her first instrument. She was awarded the Gramercy Horn of the Future Award by the Gramercy Brass Orchestra of New York and was the winner of the Lincoln Center Young Musician Award. Her orchestral and solo performances include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, The Juilliard School and at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival with Nedra Johnson and the Fat Bottom Girls. Crichlow received her master’s degree at Pennsylvania State University as a student of Velvet Brown.