saxophonist | composer | critic | bird guide
Elijah Shiffer is a New York-based musician who has been involved with nearly every facet of the city’s jazz scene as a saxophonist, bandleader, composer, arranger, editor, and critic. He has released two CDs as a leader, each with a regularly performing band. The more recent CD, “Star Jelly”, came out in February 2023. It features an expanded version of the Star Jelly Horns, an eclectic, sax-heavy version of a New Orleans-style "brass" band which grew out of busking in Prospect Park in 2020. Elijah's debut CD, "Unhinged", was released in April 2018. The band on this earlier recording, Elijah Shiffer And The Robber Crabs, is a quartet combining the influences of early jazz and avant-garde jazz. With the title track from "Unhinged", Elijah won an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. The Robber Crabs currently have a monthly gig at the Red Room at KGB Bar; they’ve been playing there often since early 2019. Elijah also leads All The Birds, a quartet dedicated to his original compositions inspired by birds, as well as the Dada Bebop Quartet. Recordings of both are coming soon.
Elijah is a regular member of the Shrine Big Band and Main Drag Philharmonix, two avant-garde large ensembles with monthly residencies in their namesake venues. He also currently plays in bassist SeaJun Kwon’s Walking Cliche and violinist Ben Sutin’s Klazz-Ma-Tazz; Elijah is on both of the latter’s CDs. Other leaders Elijah has played with include Xander Naylor (with whom he’s recorded and toured), Tyshawn Sorey, Sean Cronin, Cecilia Coleman, Bobby Sanabria, Kyle Athayde, and Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic.
From 2016 to 2019, Elijah was a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. In February 2020, he premiered four big band compositions in a Jazz Composers Showcase concert at the Jazz Gallery. Elijah created an improvised solo sax soundtrack for "Always For The First Time", a short film by John Caliendo and Victoria Meade that won Best Experimental Short Film at the 2022 Tallahassee Film Festival. Elijah has composed for the chamber ensembles Du.0 and Xelana Duo, and arranged for Dandy Wellington And His Band and the Evan Sherman Big Band.
Since early 2014, Elijah has been working for the jazz publishing company Second Floor Music. Besides editing their sheet music, Elijah writes descriptions of songs for the company's website, jazzleadsheets.com. His playing is featured on a several videos on the jazzleadsheets.com YouTube channel. In 2022 Elijah started writing album reviews; these can be read in The New York City Jazz Record, jazzrightnow.com, and his own blog Extra Special Music.
Elijah is a graduate of Manhattan School Of Music, where he studied with Steve Wilson, Donny McCaslin, Jim McNeely, Dave Liebman, Samir Chatterjee, and Todd Reynolds. Earlier mentors of his include Ed Palermo and the late Barry Harris and Charles Davis.
Besides music, Elijah has always been very interested in birds. He can often be found birdwatching in NYC parks. A former member of the Linnaean Society of New York and the Brooklyn Bird Club, Elijah got to perform some of his compositions for the former's lecture series at the American Museum of Natural History in November 2013. Since 2021, he has been leading birdwatching walks for the Lower East Side Ecology Center and performing (with his All The Birds band) for this organization's annual Fall Social. In 2023 he started leading walks for the NYC Audubon Society as well.