In May of 2011, saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed received a phone call from Mousey Thompson (James Brown's last drummer), who said "Elijah! Chuck needs a sax player. Can you make the gig?" In the moment, it didn't hit me which Chuck he was talking about. He was referring to a man who created a sense of identity for the Washington, DC music scene. A man who was loved, admired, and revered in DC and many other areas. He was talking about the Godfather of Go-Go, the legendary Chuck Brown.
Without hesitation, and not even checking his calendar to see what he might already have going on, Elijah said "Yes, of course I can make it!". Luckily, the date was open, but Elijah would have dropped whatever was in his hands for the chance to play with the Godfather. At this point, Elijah had spent about 3 years working on the local scene and establishing his reputation as a straight-ahead "Jazz" musician. He's always been steeped in many styles, but Jazz had always been his main love. Elijah's first gig with Chuck was at Blues Alley, the historic Washington, DC jazz club where Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, and many other greats have performed. This was a good segue into Go-Go for Elijah, as he had performed at Blues Alley several times prior and it was a more mellow environment than most Go-Go venues. At least that's what he thought. About 20 minutes into the set, Chuck said into the microphone "We're gonna do one for the old-school", followed by the words "It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't Got That Go-Go Swing...". It was at that point, all the old-school Go-Go heads could no longer contain themselves at the supper club, and they got out of their seats and started bustin' loose!
After that gig, Elijah became a part-time member of Chuck's band, regularly subbing for saxophonist Bryan Mills. Over the next year, Elijah would perform with the Godfather at various DC venues such as Love, Ibiza, 9:30 Club, to name a few, and also traveled with Chuck to Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. Over the course of that year, Elijah learned the intricacies of playing in a horn section, playing contemporary music, and how to play in a REALLY loud setting! He also learned that he had a new-found love, a new passion. Chuck Brown gave Elijah a new outlet to express himself musically, and Go-Go has become a regular part of Elijah's life.
In May of 2012, almost exactly a year after Elijah's first time playing with Chuck Brown, at the age of 75 and after a long, fruitful career, the legendary Godfather of Go-Go had passed away. The devastation spread through the city, and nobody was ready to lose DC's native son and unofficial mayor. After this occurrence, Elijah knew that he had to do something to continue Chuck's legacy. After a couple years of planning and brainstorming, Elijah debuted The JoGo Project as a part of an artist residency at Strathmore. The concert was a success, so Elijah continued working on the JoGo concept, and now the band has become a common name in DC, having performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center, H Street Festival, Funk Parade, Art All Night, The Lincoln Theatre, and more!
The JoGo Project
JusPaul - Vocals
Isaac "Izzy" Bell - Vocals (PROFILE)
Imani Grace-Cooper - Vocals (PERFORMANCE)
Brad Clements - Trumpet (SITE)
Deante Haggerty-Willis - Guitar/Bass
Mark Meadows - Keys (SITE)
Eliot Seppa - Electric Bass
Stan Banks - Drums
Mike Burney - Percussion
Sugar Bear - E.U.
Frank Sirius a.k.a. Scooby - Vocalist/Guitarist w/ Team Familiar, "Godson of Go-Go"
Greg Boyer - Trombonist w/ Parliament/Funkadelic, Prince, Chuck Brown, currently on the road w/ Maceo Parker
Warren Wolf - Vibraphonist w/ Christian McBride's Inside Straight and SF Jazz Collective
Christie Dashiell - Vocalist w/ Afro Blue, Marcus Strickland, etc.
Javier Starks - Concsious, curse-free Rapper, has performed with Robert Glasper, Casey Benjamin, etc.
Derrick Holmes - Lead Vocalist w/ VYBE Band
Kenny "Kwick" Gross - Drummer w/ Chuck Brown, Rare Essence, and Wale
Joseph Webb - Tap Dancer DC/NYC, House of Tap DC