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.

Pianist, composer, and producer Eli Yamin has dedicated his life to performing, teaching, and building community through jazz. He has performed and toured as a jazz ambassador for the United States in over 25 countries, and at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the White House. His recordings include You Can’t Buy Swing with his jazz quartet; I Feel So Glad, with his blues band; Louie’s Dream, dedicated to “our jazz heroes,” with New Orleans-based clarinetist Evan Christopher, and Live In Burghausen with jazz icon, Illinois Jacquet. He co-founded and now directs Jazz Power Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives through jazz arts education and performance. His three youth-centered musicals have been performed internationally and across the U.S. including Message From Saturn, about the healing power of the blues, presented with Summerfest/Jazzmobile in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem in July 2021. His book, So You Want to Sing the Blues: A Guide For Performers was published by Rowman and Littlefield in collaboration with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Eli holds a Masters in Music Education from Lehman College, City University of New York, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook, State University of New York. 

As a pianist:

A Steinway artist, Eli Yamin 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, and The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and international festivals including The Newport Jazz Festival, The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, The St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, Guatemala Jazz Festival, and Marciac, France. He has also appeared several times at the Obama White House including participating in the first-ever White House Jazz Studio. Eli has recorded eight CDs featuring his music.

As a composer:

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 CDs are heard on Sirius XM and WBGO/Jazz 88. 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. Eli, with Clifford Carlson, co-wrote five jazz musicals featuring youth performers, including Message From Saturn about the blues and Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical, about climate change, and Holding the Torch for Liberty, about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. These three musicals are licensed for performance worldwide and are also available on CD from Jazz Power Initiative.

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 its first 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.”