Celebrate Dave Brubeck at 100 with Eli online

Years ago I had the good fortune to correspond with Dave Brubeck. He wrote to me with very encouraging words for my work in education. It meant a lot to me and still does. In 2014, producer Seton Hawkins of Jazz at Lincoln Center asked me to create a series of fun and informative performance/education videos for their online Jazz Academy. As Brubeck’s legacy at 100 is honored all over the world, here are 7 takes on some of his most well-known compositions. Please enjoy and share with a teacher you know so more people around the world will get to know and love the artistry and soulfulness of this magnificent pianist, composer, and bandleader.



Solo Piano Concert

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In partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stony Brook University, Eli Yamin presents:

Eli Yamin: Solo Piano

Live Stream from Eli’s Living Room, Inwood, New York City

Well You Needn’t by Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

Remember Rockefeller at Attica by Charles Mingus (1922-1979)

Shelter in Place by Eli Yamin (1968-)

Light Blue by Thelonious Monk

Free Improvisation #1

Lift Every Voice and Sing by J. Rosamund Johnson (1873-1954)

Adagio cantabile, Pathetique Op.13 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Crepuscule With Nellie by Thelonious Monk

Free Improvisation #2

Monk’s Point by Thelonious Monk

Evidence by Thelonious Monk

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

Maple Leaf Ray based on Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin (1868-1917)

I Cover the Waterfront by Johnny Green (1908-1989), made famous by Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Me and Lulu by Eli Yamin

Eli Yamin – Managing Artistic Director @Jazz Power Initiative Eli Yamin, an imaginative and community-oriented pianist and composer from New York, has performed with his jazz quartet and blues band as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State in Albania, Brazil, Chile, China, Greece, Guatemala, India, Mali, Montenegro, Romania, and Russia. A Steinway Artist, Yamin has also performed at Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and scores of international festivals including The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho, The St. Petersburg Jazz Festival in Russia, The Guatemala Jazz Festival in Guatemala City and Jazz in Marciac in France. He also appeared several times with his band at the Obama White House. Eli’s 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, Live In Burghausen with jazz icon, Illinois Jacquet and Message From Saturn, a jazz musical about the healing power of the blues he co-wrote that was inspired by Sun Ra and Mary Lou Williams. Mr. Yamin was the musical director for the 10th Anniversary tour of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, directed by Mercedes Ellington, and serves on the board of The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts. He is also the co-founder and Managing Artistic Director of The Jazz Power Initiative, a non-profit organization that transforms lives through jazz arts education and performance. The author of So You Want To Sing The Blues: A Guide for Performers, published by Rowman and Littlefield in collaboration with The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), Yamin is working towards his Doctorate of Musical Arts at Stony Brook University, The State University of New York.

Eli Yamin presents first ticketed live stream concert for Global Music Foundation.

I am happy to announce my first ticketed live stream solo concert presented by the Global Music Foundation this Friday, October 16 at:
I will be performing from my home in New York City and celebrating the 103rd birthday of Thelonious Monk, born October 10, 1917; the same year my piano was built in the Steinway Factory in Queens.
Tickets can be purchased on the Global Music Foundation website here.
TICKET PRICE €10.00 / £10.00 / $13.00 
Booking closes 30 minutes before the start of concert to allow time to process payments and send passwords.
I hope you can join me. It’s going to be FUN!

My first professional jazz job at WBGO/Jazz 88.

Eli Yamin (WBGO Staff Photo by Enid Farber 1990)

Enid Farber took this photo when I was 21 and working my first professional jazz job at WBGO Jazz 88.3. I was a Board Operator, sub DJ and producer of Jazz From the Archives hosted by the staff of the Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies and Portraits in Blue with Bob Porter. l was incredibly fortunate to learn from mentors Dorthaan Kirk, Wylie Rollins, James Browne, Michael D. Anderson, Rhonda Hamilton Carvin, Becca Pulliam, Gary Walker, Chico Mendoza, Larry D’Albero, Duke Markos, Alfredo Cruz, Paul Fowlie, Jim Anderson, Loren Schoenberg, Dan Morgenstern, Vincent Pelote, Ed Berger, Bob Porter, and the many artists who came through. Working at WBGO was an essential part of my journey to make a career in the arts and I do my best to pass along what I’ve learned to the next generation through Jazz Power Initiative. In addition, I wrote a blog for parents of children who set out for careers in the arts. Even in hard times like these, I say to parents of young people who strike out on this path. “It’s okay, it’s okay. This world needs the beauty, creativity, unity and strength your son/daughter offers, now more than ever. Just help them be prepared to be flexible, pay some dues, and listen carefully. In this way they will know how best to be of service to the community and keep working.”

Lord, Please Protect Black Men by Eli Yamin

Lord, please protect black men


Who have carried our cross in America for too long


Who watch birds


Who design and build bridges


Who invent 


Who teach


Who raise children


Who write music


Who play the saxophone, trumpet, piano, drums, tuba, bass, and violin.


Lord, please protect black men. Like the brilliant and generous black men who have protected, taught, helped, and guided me. I’m thinking of, and celebrating and feeling immense gratitude for:


How Maxine Greene influenced my work these past 20 years…

Eli Yamin presenting at Maxine Greene Institute at The New School, NYC. Photo by Holly Fairbank


“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you when it becomes possible to abandon one-dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before… Our object…where young people are concerned, is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experiences.” Maxine Greene, Variations on a Blue Guitar (pp. 187, 189)

It was an honor to present a lecture at the Maxine Greene Institute at The New School this past Sunday, December 15. The event was organized by my dear colleagues Holly Fairbank, Heidi Upton and Jean Taylor who serve on the board of The Greene Institute and remain actively involved in educating people around the world about Greene’s essential work.

The lecture gave me a precious opportunity to look back at the past 20 years of my teaching practice since I met Maxine Greene at Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education in 1999. I was invigorated to see the fruits of seeds she planted with her words, concepts, and models expressed by my students. This is certainly true at Jazz Power Initiative, the organization I co-founded in 2003 and continue to lead. I was happy to share the breadth of our work in this video by Josh Robertson with supervision from Emmy Award Winner, Phil Bertelsen:

I also took some time to review the work I did at Jazz at Lincoln Center when I served as founding Director of the Middle School Jazz Academy and led the program from 2005-2016. Luckily, I came across two videos that boldly illustrate what we accomplished in my time there–the active marriage of skills-based and aesthetic-based arts education through jazz.

The first video from 2014 shows my 11-13-year-old students performing Perdido. This song was composed by Juan Tizol (from Puerto Rico) and made famous by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The arrangement showcases the peak of what these students can play in an ensemble as well as multiple short solos in quick sequence giving multiple perspectives/experiences on the solo art of jazz. The students in this video had been playing a range of 6 months to 2 years when they recorded it. Their progress in that short amount of time is remarkable.

The following video shows many of these same students performing free improvisations in front of abstract works of art by extraordinary African American painters on display at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. The video is 10 minutes and if you hang in there until the end, you will hear amazingly rich comments from the students on their experience at the gallery. At the Maxine Greene Institute presentation, this was the highlight. It’s what we live for in Aesthetic Education–students from diverse backgrounds articulating their experience of complex works of art, taking their own perspective seriously and expressing their intelligence and sensitivity around peers and elders with poise and confidence. Wow, wow, wow…enjoy and please let me know what you think!

Happy Holidays and may 2020 bring new openings and imaginative breakthroughs!


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Jazz Power Initiative 15th Anniversary Celebration

Eli with Jazz Power Youth

It’s amazing to see this dream come this far–Jazz Power Initiative, the non profit I co-founded in 2003 with Clifford Carlson, is turning 15 years old. Jazz Power is one feisty teenager, let me tell you. Based in upper Manhattan, our uptown programs in Harlem and Washington Heights are thriving with 30 teens receiving scholarships to attend our 12-week training in piano keyboard, singing, dancing and acting. We also continue to host our monthly Intergenerational Jazz Jams at National Jazz Museum in Harlem on the second Sunday and we are gearing up for our 5th Annual Jazz Power Institute, a two-day training for artists and teachers on teaching jazz across the curriculum.

I’ve turned 50 this year and take great delight in seeing youngsters coming up through our programs, embracing jazz culture and sharing the responsibility to spread the brilliance of this music to the next generation as well as our elders. Together we are doing all we can to make a positive difference in the world by bringing joy and fellowship through music. I hope you can join us at our 15th Anniversary Celebration, or another one of our programs or by making a financial contribution to this work I hold so dear at Jazz Power Initiative.

Big announcement: BLUES BOOK RELEASED!

Rowman and Littlefield Publishers in collaboration with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) has released my book, So You Want to Sing the Blues.  This book is the gathering of many of my life experiences being inspired, guided and uplifted by the blues since I was a child. It is also the result of precious mentorship I received from blues masters Walter Perkins, Amiri and Amina Baraka and many others as well as serious study of the voice for the past ten years with Jeanie LoVetri and Darrell Lauer. The book has chapters on:

Origins of the Blues

Singing and Voice Science by Scott McCoy

Vocal Health by Wendy LeBorgne

The Magic and Mechanics of Singing the Blues by Darrell Lauer with Eli Yamin

Developing Authentic Style Characteristics: Early Blues Women

Developing Authentic Style Characteristics: Early Blues Men and Another Woman

Developing Authentic Style Characteristics: Chicago Blues and the Modern Blues Sound

Making a Soulful Sound and Writing Your Own Blues

Using Audio Enhancement Technology by Mathew Edwards

This book is designed to be a resource for people new to the blues to understand the African American cultural traditions that create and sustain the it AND for blues performers experiencing vocal challenges who could use more techniques for healing and strengthening the voice for more flexibility and stamina.

There are links throughout to MUSIC because the blues masters are, of course, the best resource for learning and going deeper in understanding the blues.

For me, it was a thrilling journey to read, watch and listen to everything I could on the blues and distill it to what I hope is a compelling resource for performers for years to come. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“Sure, I play and sing other kinds of music–jazz in particular–but I always come back to the blues. The blues is the foundation. The blues is the source. The blues is strength. It connects you with a lineage that goes back hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. The blues is life force and creativity. The blues is personal and collective. The blues makes people move, and the blues is real. When you immerse yourself and share what you have in the blues, your body, mind and soul and those around you are uplifted.

Whereas the blues can do all this, it is not easy. So often, the blues gets defined in small ways. But the blues blues is not small. The blues is huge…”

To order, please follow one of the links below. I hope you like the book. Please do let me know and/or write a review on Amazon as it will boost sales and help more people get more blues. Thank you!



Rowman and Littlefield Publisher


Why We Play Jazz by Eli Yamin

Dear Contestants of Kamerton’s We are Playing Jazz Festival,

I am so happy to hear that you are playing jazz together!
And this is the most important thing, together. Because as much as jazz is about individual achievement and expression on your instrument through improvisation, it is really about playing together with other people. Learning to groove in synchronization with a band. This is different than playing by yourself. It requires active listening, adjusting, making room for others, supporting and celebrating each other.
It makes me think of a film of Duke Ellington Live at the Tivoli Gardens in 1971. The band is performing Ellington’s composition “Chinoiserie” and a young tenor saxophone player named Harold Ashby is being featured. Ellington stands next to him during his solo calling out encouragement, “Go man. Alright now. Yes!”  And Ashby soars, playing more and more great music in each chorus. This is how jazz is to be played, in community with encouragement flying out in real time from the leaders, band members, and audience members.
Jazz comes from African American culture, a culture of incredibly strong and resilient people, who created a music that succeeded by the strength of people helping each other wherever possible to overcome tremendous obstacles. So ask yourself, can you help somebody today? Can you give someone encouragement who needs it most? Can you celebrate someone else’s success and feel it like your own? This is the true magic of jazz and if you get it right, your life will be a bright light to everyone around you.
Keep playing and keep listening and I hope we meet again one day so I can see you shining!
Eli Yamin


The Birds Sing First by Eli Yamin


Have you ever noticed?

The birds sing first.

I mean, they have a lot to do, right? Gather food, fix up their nest. Even so, they make time to sing. That’s how they always START. Makes me think of this…

Once there was a town where everyone sang first. There was a song for everything. Waking up, going to sleep, eating, dressing, walking, driving, riding, studying, playing, visiting, arguing, figuring stuff out—a song for everything. That’s how it was. Sing first.

When young people reached 4th or 5th grade, they were offered an instrument to go with the songs. They played saxophones, trumpets, trombones, violins, basses, pianos, guitars and drums. They played all the time. For games, graduations, assemblies, parades, fairs, parties and ceremonies. And when the children were grown, some didn’t play as much but they listened—oh how they listened! Listened so hard their teeth hurt. And the ones who kept playing, played so well they played like no one ever played before—inventing, bending notes, scooping, soaring, swinging and playing the blues. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman were some of their names.

Oh, and did I mention, the people danced? Like no one had danced before—jumping, leaping, catching, syncopating, letting go and holding on. The music brought people together. Black, White, Latino, Asian. It healed us…

This place was here in New York City, in the United States.

It is hard to understand when, how, or why we stopped singing—when, how or why we stopped giving instruments to our children. People will give many reasons and none of them make any sense.

Dewey Redman said, “Music makes us smarter, happy and healthier.” Why stop?

Louis Armstrong said, “What we play is life.” Why stop?

Willie Dixon said, “The blues is the roots. Everything else is the fruits.”

We’d have to be CRAZY not to play? Don’t you think?

So don’t be crazy—keep playing. Don’t be crazy—keep singing. Don’t be crazy—keep dancing.

And if anybody ever tells you to stop, you tell him what Dewey, Louie or Willie said. Or simply ask—have you ever noticed?

The birds sing first.

Jazz at Lincoln Center (4/30/16)