is a musician and interdisciplinary music artist - a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist based in Baltimore, Maryland. Besides his distinguished performance portfolio, what makes his artistry unique is that his projects are multi-media, combining music, art, poetry, and animation to create a journey that represents the challenges and triumphs in his own life and experience.
Under the auspices of his father, who has been a pastor and minister of music since Joel was born, Joel began playing percussion at the age of three, played drums in the church on Sundays by the age of six, and started receiving professional instruction in drums, music studies, and theory at the age of twelve, at Victor Litz Music where his father taught guitar. After a year of private lessons with John Zidar, Joel was admitted to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC where he majored in drums and percussion in the music department, under Francis Thompson. Some of his other teachers and influences have been Carlos Caro, Hector "Coco" Barez, Alfredo Mojica, Renee Ibanez, and Masaga Wolf. Joel advanced his studies at Berklee Conservatory of Music where he holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies.
He has performed and recorded on multiple projects in the genres of Jazz, Reggae, Gospel, Salsa, Bachata, and R&B. Some of the people he has worked and performed with include Johnathan Acosta, Ila Vibez Band, Roots Radics, Lafayette Gilchrist, Benito Gonzales, Theljon Allen, Herb Scott, Leonardo Lucini, Bachata Plus, Alfredo Mojica and Friends, Antonio Luis Orta, and Jorga Mesfin: Mulato Astatke’s Asli Ethio-jazz. Joel has also played leading roles in productions featuring some of the area's most prominent producers including Blaqstar, Kariz Marcel, Jay “Funk” Carter, Nate Middleman, Jim Fox, Ricky "Swan" Richardson, and Joe Cooper.
Joel is an avid educator and has taught music at several local music academies and theatres. His goal is not only to create quality music, but to share the gift of music with the next generation, and to provide professional quality music production as a service on an audio, video, and media level by formulating diverse teams to approach projects with a distinct taste and authenticity. Performance Schedule!
Joel's current and upcoming project, Menfes Legend, is based on a comic he authored in partnership with illustrator David "Artbook" Johnson. The multi-media project is set for full release this year (2022) and includes a comic, newly released music (which is a neo-soul fusion), animated videos, and a rugged clothing and accessory brand. See what's available now in our Shop!
THROUGH MY MUSIC ...
I have to search and I look to find ... not just a sound or a technical expression resulting from extensive practice; but a feeling of release, and relief I like to call FREEDOM. And it’s just as much an inner search and quest as it is a spiritual stretch out about as far as my soul can possibly go. And when I feel that I’ve been able to achieve this freedom through my music, I feel that I’m understanding something deep and that I’m also being deeply understood. And it also affirms that everyone sharing the experience with me can also feel the freedom I feel. Then, at that moment, I’m ready to experience something deeper, capable of bringing me closer to God and humanity … closer to life and nature … maybe even closer to love definitely closer to my Self!
This may be a lot to say of music that can sometimes be simply classified by genre and quick categorization. Yet, this explanation is not to take anything away from the genres which I practice; I love to express them in their full authenticity - bringing to life a rich history and culture - being honored to feel what all of my greatest inspirations have felt in their truest language and expression. In interpreting standards - just as in writing a new lyric or composition in any style, the idea is to add new elements each time, which most sincerely capture my thoughts and emotions at any given time; to share the summation of what I have learned and experienced on this short journey of life: all of the happiness, the joy, and the pain.
My current works are my greatest joy and challenge. Working together with musicians and arrangers I admire most, I have been aiming to bring many Yoruba classics to life in instrumental music, in a current Latin-jazz group with whom I've been recording. We also explore original compositions that reflect a story of the times, merging both the old and the new. Besides this, there is Menfes Legend, which is the upcoming multi-media release, and also a well-anticipated Reggae-roots EP all set for full release this year