saxophonist | composer
New York-based saxophonist/composer Elijah Shiffer plays and writes music rooted in the jazz tradition, while incorporating elements of contemporary classical music and traditional music from around the world. His New York City performance credits include Birdland, Fat Cat, Smalls, The Jazz Gallery, Cornelia Street Cafe, ShapeShifter Lab, The Iridium, Minton's, Smoke, and The Stone.
Elijah released his second CD as a leader, "Star Jelly", in February 2023. It's the first issue on his own label, also called Star Jelly. This recording features an expanded version of the Star Jelly Horns, an eclectic, sax-heavy version 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 on OneTrickDog Records. 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 a Young Jazz Composer Award from the ASCAP Foundation. The Robber Crabs have been playing regularly at the Red Room at KGB Bar since early 2019. Elijah has led a variety of other groups; his third current project is All The Birds, a contemporary jazz quartet dedicated to his original compositions inspired by birds. Elijah has performed as a leader at a variety of venues around NYC, from DROM to ABC No Rio to Jalopy Theater to Sir D's Lounge. In 2022 he played at two NYC neighborhood jazz festivals: the Newtown Jazz Fest in Bushwick - leading yet another group, the avant-garde jazz quartet Summer World - and the Washington Heights Jazz Festival, with the Robber Crabs.
Elijah is a regular member of the Shrine Big Band which plays the first Sunday of every month at Shrine World Music Venue; he was a founding member and arranger of the Stephen Santoro Orchestra which played every Thursday at Swing 46 through most of 2019. Elijah also plays in Cecilia Coleman's big band, appearing in this band on some of vocalist Ronny Whyte's 2019 CD "Whyte Witchcraft"; Elijah's first performance at Birdland was this CD's release show in October 2019. Elijah was one of three featured composers on a big band concert at the Jazz Gallery in February 2020, part of the venue's Jazz Composers Showcase series directed by Miho Hazama. From 2017 to 2019, Elijah played in guitarist Xander Naylor's jazz/metal quartet Sound Machine. Besides playing at Threes Brewing, Trans-Pecos, Nublu, and other NYC venues with this band, he has toured with them four times, mostly around the Burlington, Vermont area, but also in Montreal, Quebec; Richmond, Virginia; and a few other places along the east coast. Xander Naylor Sound Machine has recorded two CDs: "Transmission" and "Continuum", released in October 2018 and October 2020 respectively. Elijah is also a member of the klezmer/jazz band Klazz-Ma-Tazz, led by violinist Ben Sutin; they have performed at several NYC venues including Cornelia Street Cafe, City Winery, DROM, and ShapeShifter Lab. Klazz-Ma-Tazz released their first CD "Tangibility" in September 2015, and their second, "Meshuggenah", in April 2018. Other leaders Elijah has performed with over the past few years include Nate Sparks, Antoine Drye, Dennis Llewellyn Day, Frank Perowsky, Sean Cronin, and Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic. From 2012 to 2016, he played frequently with vocalist Annette St. John on weekend brunch sets at Smoke. In July 2016 he played at The Stone in a large improvising ensemble conducted by Tyshawn Sorey. Elijah played on "Killer" Ray Appleton's last gig, at Minton's in August 2015; he also played at a memorial concert for Appleton at St. Peter's Church. Since early 2014, Elijah has been working for the jazz publishing company Second Floor Music. Elijah writes descriptions for songs on this the company's website, jazzleadsheets.com, and is featured on a few videos on the jazzleadsheets.com YouTube channel. He has participated in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, and conducted his own compositions on the workshop's 2017, 2018, and 2019 big band concerts.
Elijah participated in the Blank Space House Concerts, a series of performances in musicians' apartments around the city featuring mostly experimental and contemporary classical music. He has written for the chamber ensembles Xelana Duo, Tilted Arc, Du.0, and The Westerlies, as well as the Shrine Big Band. Elijah received honorable mention in 2017's inaugural call for scores by the composition collective ICEBERG New Music, with a piece he wrote for the ensemble loadbang. In 2014, he was commissioned to compose and perform a piece for the Hoff-Barthelson Music School's Contemporary Festival. One of Elijah's compositions was performed in the 2019 "A Very Small Consortium" concert at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. In 2016, Elijah won the KCO (Klezmer Company Orchestra) Composition Award; this ensemble, based in Boca Raton, performed a composition of his at Florida Atlantic University. Also outside the New York area, Elijah was a member of the American Composers Orchestra's 2015 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, at University of California, Los Angeles. In 2013, he participated in the Banff Centre's International Jazz Workshop in Banff, Alberta.
Elijah received both Bachelor of Music (jazz saxophone) and Master of Music (jazz composition) degrees from Manhattan School of Music. His teachers at MSM included Jim McNeely, Richard Sussman, Todd Reynolds, David Liebman, Donny McCaslin, Jamie Baum, and Steve Wilson. Other people Elijah has studied with include Barry Harris, Charles Davis, Jason Rigby, and Ed Palermo.
Elijah has always been very interested in birds. He is a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club, and has participated in their birdwatching walks in various NYC parks. He is also an associate member of the Linnaean Society of New York, and whenever he can he attends their monthly meetings at the American Museum of Natural History; he performed some of his own compositions in their lecture series in November 2013. In September 2021, Elijah started leading birdwatching walks for the Lower East Side Ecology Center; he also performed for their Fall Social at Essex Market (with All The Birds) in both 2021 and 2022. In his compositions, Elijah often attempts to evoke or reflect the natural world within a jazz setting.