About Eli

This man has met Thelonious Monk.”  Amiri Baraka, writer

Eli reminds me of Pete Seeger.  He’s a musician playing for a better world. Eli doesn’t just play for you.  He wants the essence of his jazz to infiltrate your community.” Becca Pulliam,  Executive Producer,  National Public Radio.

Eli Yamin is a jazz and blues pianist, composer, 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 Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City and President Obama’s White House.   Yamin co-founded and serves as Managing and Artistic Director Jazz Power Initiative, a non-profit organization that transforms lives through jazz arts education.  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.  Eli’s jazz musicals for children are performed around the world and licensed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide.  His CD’s are heard on Sirius XM and Jazz 88, WBGO in Newark.

As a pianist:

Eli Yamin,  a Steinway artist, has performed with his quartet blues band as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State in Russia, Guatemala, Montenegro Mali, India, China, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Albania and Romania. He has performed at Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC and international festivals including The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival (Moscow, Idaho), The St. Petersburg Jazz Festival in Russia, Guatemala Jazz Festival and Marciac in France. He has also appeared several times at the Obama White House.

His quartet’s acclaimed CD, You Can’t Buy Swing, airs nationally on Sirius XM and his Blues Band recording, I Feel So Glad released in 2011 continues strong sales internationally.

As a composer:

Eli composes lyrics and melody, such as  “A Healing Song,” about the healing power of the blues and “Rwandan Child” reflecting the wisdom and importance of children.   He has also written scores for films such as Phil Bertelson’s Around the Time and chamber music, Rickshaw in the Rain for clarinet, viola and piano, by Pia Clava, premiering at Carnegie Hall in New York City.   Eli, with Clifford Carlson, has co-written five jazz musicals for children,  including Message From Saturn about the blues and Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical a retelling of the biblical tale with swing, bebop and the blues.  He recently released a CD of Holding the Torch for Liberty, the jazz musical about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement with the Jazz Drama Singers, featuring Evan Christopher, clarinet, Sara Caswell, violin and Chris Washburne, trombone.  The CD of Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical features his quintet and the Grammy Award Winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus.  Both are produced by The Jazz Drama Program.  Eli lives in New York City with his wife Lorraine and daughter Manika.

As an educator:

Eli Yamin co-founded and serves as Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz Power Initiative, a non-profit 501c3 organization that transforms lives through jazz arts education.  Eli was the founding Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy for ten years and, as training specialist, designed and delivered workshops for artists, teachers and executives, in association with Fordham Graduate School of Business. He continues training artists and teachers through Jazz Power Initiative.

Early Career:

Eli was born in 1968 in East Patchogue, Long Island and grew up in a house full of music enthusiasts.   He heard folk greats Elizabeth Cotten, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie; classics by Bach, Mozart, Sinatra; and blues by B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Taj Majal. He spent his first 10 years as a young professional pianist working with masters such as drummer Walter Perkins and saxophonist Illinois Jacquet.  On the bandstand, Eli absorbed the blues into every molecule of his being playing with Walter Perkins.  He learned how you play the blues to make people feel good.  On the road in Europe with Illinois Jacquet’s Big Band, Eli deepened his knowledge of swing, drama, the power of the big band and being well prepared.    Eli also worked closely with director/choreographer Mercedes Ellington when, at 24, he served as musical director/pianist for the tenth anniversary tour of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.  As a radio producer and announcer for WBGO he met countless other legends, interviewing them, and learning valuable life lessons.


Ruth Brown told Eli, “Get some joy out of life or life will get the joy out of you.”

Benny Carter humorously imparted, “You know the secret to making a name for yourself? Outlive everyone else.”

Roy Eldridge explained, “Once you can play four choruses without repeating yourself, you made it.”