Best New D.C. Jazz Musician

Elijah Balbed
With five university-level jazz programs in the area, there are always plenty of young musicians coming and going in the D.C. scene—but damned few who, once they get here, work as hard as Elijah Balbed. Since graduating from Montgomery County’s Albert Einstein High School in 2008, the tenor saxophonist has worked with Thad Wilson, in the latter’s big and small bands, and Tosin Aribisala’s Afrikan Rhapsody. He’s led a Wednesday night jam session at Café Nema. He’s a full-time member of the freeform Cricket Fusion Quartet, and he heads his own quartet, which plays late Saturday nights at U-Topia. What’s more, along with Balbed’s dedication comes a sleek but hefty saxophone sound and a great ear for improvisation. It all makes him one of the most exciting players in town—with one of the brightest futures.