Photo by Murat Eyuboglu
Rafi Malkiel is a highly acclaimed composer, band leader, trombone, and euphonium player originally from Jerusalem and based in New York. He has shared his talent with audiences around the world, playing Jazz, World, and Afro-Latin music in his unique and captivating style. Malkiel’s journey as a musician influenced his compositional approach, which includes a wide variety of genres and styles including jazz, improvised music, classical music, Afro-Latin rhythms, and the North-African rhythms and Arabic Maqam scales he grew up listening to as the son of a Jewish-Moroccan cantor. Malkiel’s compositions and arrangements combine all these elements, forming a unique and refreshing ensemble sound that lets the beauty of creative writing combined with improvised sections shine. Malkiel’s artistic vision is to create a harmonious musical universe that is deeply rooted in his multicultural background and welcomes a diversity of musical heritages.
Malkiel has composed for a wide variety of ensembles, including his own ten-piece ensemble, the Rafi Malkiel Ensemble, his quintet, The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which featured his composition "Desert" on their GRAMMY-nominated album Virtual Birdland in 2022, the United States Army Blues, and a Music and Dance collaborations at the Construction Company in NYC. Malkiel’s ensemble features some of the leading voices in jazz, including Anat Cohen, Itai Kriss, and Avishai Cohen, and guests such as the legendary Andy Gonzalez and Howard Johnson.
In 2008, he was awarded the Doris Duke New Works: Creations and Presentation grant from Chamber Music America and composed twelve original compositions that were featured on his second album as a leader, released in 2010 on the prestigious Ztadik label. The album received rave reviews and made it to first place on Jazz Week's World Music Albums Radio Play chart in November 2010. His debut album, My Island, was released in 2007 and featured original compositions and arrangements of jazz and Afro-Caribbean standards. The album received many enthusiastic reviews from the New York Times, All About Jazz, Hot House, Time Out NY, and many others. It also received radio play and made it to first place in radio charts on a few different radio stations in the US, including WBAI-FM NY, M3 Radio FM station in New York, WTUL 91.5 FM in New Orleans, LA, and CHUO 89.1 FM in Ottawa, Canada.
Malkiel has been an active performer in the New York scene for the past thirty years, specializing in Jazz, Afro-Caribbean, and World Music. He has been playing the solo trombone chair with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and has been performing and recording with the orchestra for the past decade. He won four GRAMMY awards with the band, the latest one was the Best Latin Jazz Album GRAMMY award, won in February 2023 for the album Fandango at The Wall in New York. He also appears on Greg August's album Dialogues on Race, which was nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble GRAMMY award in 2021.
Malkiel has played and recorded with many groups including The Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Yemen Blues, Salsa Picante, George Coleman, Donald Harrison, Chucho Valdez, Willie Colon, Manny Oquendo, Andy Gonzalez and Conjunto Libre, Lauren Hill, Jason Lindner’s Big Band, Grammy-nominated Colombian singer Toto La Momposina, and he participated in Reggie Workman’s John Coltrane Africa Brass Live project. Rafi has performed on Broadway in the Tony-award-winning musicals The Color Purple and Urinetown.
Rafi Malkiel has played in numerous prestigious venues such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Town Hall, Symphony Space, Birdland, Blue Note, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the NJPAC. He has also performed in many festivals around the world, including the Newport Jazz festival, JVC Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Summer Stage, WOMAD festivals in Greece, New Zealand, and Australia, the Sydney Festival in Australia, and the Red Sea International Jazz Festival in Israel to name a few. Malkiel has recorded over seventy Jazz, Latin, and Rock albums and has been featured on several movies and TV theme songs, including "Souvenirs," winner of first place in the Doc-Aviv Festival and the Israeli Oscar for Best Documentary in 2006.
Rafi was cited in the Recommended Jazz Trombonists list on PBS' website Jazz, a film by Ken Burns, as well as in The Young Guns of Jazz, Trumpeting the Best of a New Generation, by Chip Deffaa in the New York Post in July 2001. Malkiel holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New School in New York City, a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and a Doctorate in Music from Stony Brook University. He divides his time between performing, composing, and educating younger musicians. Malkiel was the recipient of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation music scholarships from 1985 to 1997.