Balance is a collaborative duo between saxophonist Marcus Elliot and pianist Michael Malis. Called “two of Detroit’s most important young jazz musicians” by the Detroit Free Press, Elliot and Malis’ “intuitive improvisations” stand on the threshold of composed and improvised music, creating intimate portraits of musical expression that deal in the language of subtlety. In 2017, they released their eponymous debut record, which was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.”
As a duo, they have performed at some of Detroit’s most stalwart cultural institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library. They were named Artist-in-Residence at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit for their 2017-2018 season. As part of that residency, they were presented in concert as part of CMSD’s brand new “Jazz Works” concert series. Additionally, they have partnered with CMSD in a new educational initiative which brings jazz to students in public schools utilizing an innovative merger of technology and live performance.
As individuals, they are bandleaders who have released critically acclaimed albums, composers who have had their music performed around the world, and sidemen who have performed with a wide variety of jazz luminaries, including Marcus Belgrave, Jimmy Cobb, Karriem Riggins, Mulgrew Miller, Robert Hurst, Talib Kweli, Tyshawn Sorey, William Hooker, and many others. They have performed around the world, both as leaders and as sidemen, at venues such as Birdland, The Kennedy Center, The Stone, The Yokohama Jazz Promenade, and The Detroit Jazz Festival.
Marcus Elliot is a saxophonist, composer, improviser, and educator based in Detroit, Michigan. Marcus is a 2020 Kresge Artist Fellow, awarded by Kresge Arts in Detroit. He is the current director of the University of Michigan’s Creative Arts Orchestra. His compositions and improvisations have been described by the New York Times as “convincing and confident, evolved in touch and tone…”, and the Detroit Free Press has said, “Marcus Elliot represents next generation of jazz”. Elliot leads and co-leads many different Detroit based bands including the Marcus Elliot Quartet, Clockwork, Balance, Beyond Rebellious, and Lanula. Elliot performs in the Shigeto Live Ensemble. He is a Fellow of the Geri Allen Gathering Orchestra. He co-founded the nonprofit Polyfold Musical Arts Collective. Elliot is the director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Jazz Ensembles. Elliot received his master’s degree in improvisation from the University of Michigan.
Elliot is a disciple of the Detroit music scene. His mentors include Rodney Whitaker, Marcus Belgrave, Robert Hurst, Donald Walden, Bennie Maupin, Marion Hayden, and Karriem Riggins. After graduating with a bachelors degree in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University, Marcus began to curate weekly performances in Detroit, showcasing some of Detroit’s young jazz musicians. He held a weekly residency at Detroit’s premiere jazz club, Cliff Bell’s, for four years. Marcus self-released three albums with his ensemble, the Marcus Elliot Quartet and co-released an album with his duo project with Michael Malis, Balance.
As a Sideman, Marcus has performed with Bob Hurst, Karriem Riggins, James Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Marcus Belgrave, Johnny O’Neal, Jimmy Heath, Shigeto, Thaddeus Dixon, Ettiene Charles, Mulgrew Miller, Rodney Whitaker, Talib Kweli, and many others.
Marcus was a co-founder of Polyfold; a collective of musical artists who have joined together to develop, and present creative works. Founded in Detroit, Polyfold produces concerts and recordings, hosts outreach events and educational workshops, and fosters creative community in Detroit and beyond.
Marcus has traveled the world with trumpeter Anthony Stanco as a musical ambassador through the program American Voices. During his travels, Elliot has collaborated with musicians from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan.
Marcus is a member of the Shigeto Live Ensemble. This ensemble explores techno, funk, ambient, jazz, and hip-hop through using acoustic and electronic instruments.
As an Educator, Marcus has been giving private saxophone lessons since the age of 14. He was the saxophone instructor at The Young Musicians Program in Berkley, CA from 2009-2011. He was the Artist-in-Residence at Troy High School from 2013-2018 and one of the head directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Jazz Ensembles 2014-present. Marcus is a strong supporter of the arts and has created and funded a scholarship at Milford High School that gives monetary awards to young musicians and visual artists that plan to pursue the arts after high school.
Marcus has received his Masters of Music degree at the University of Michigan, where he was awarded a graduate assistantship. He is active in the Detroit music community, collaborating with musicians in jazz, free-improvised music, techno, hip-hop, r&b, and classical music.
Michael Malis is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. Noted for his “jaw dropping display of improvisational power” (All About Jazz), Malis is a multi-faceted artist, performing as a jazz musician, composing for the concert stage, and spearheading multidisciplinary collaborations.
As a recording artist, he has 11 releases as a leader. 2022’s From Darkness We Awaken, featuring chamber-improvising ensemble Virago (who commissioned the piece) was released on Brisbane Australia-based MADE NOW MUSIC. Called “transfixing” with a “disarming intensity” (All About Jazz), it was premiered in an “arresting” and “ambitious” concert at the Detroit Institute of Arts (I Dig Jazz) in August 2022, alongside new solo, ensemble, and multimedia works.
Malis has been commissioned by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Chamber Music Society of Detroit, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Detroit Composers’ Project, Virago, Hole in the Floor, and others. His piece for piano and cello, Coda, was premiered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra principle cellist Wei Yu in 2018.
Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot, who join forces under the duo known as “Balance,” have been called “among the most compelling Detroit jazz musicians of their generation” (Jazz From Detroit, University of Michigan Press.) As a duo, they’ve taken on ambitious collaborations, including their April 2019 performance piece with former Detroit poet laureate Bill Harris, I Got To Keep Moving which featured drummer Gerald Cleaver. The duo’s 2017 eponymous album was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.” Their 2022 release, Conjure, is forthcoming on Two Rooms Records.
As a pianist, Malis has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including Marcus Belgrave, Gerald Cleaver, Jaribu Shahid, John Lindberg, William Hooker, A. Spencer Barefield, Tyshawn Sorey, Brandee Younger, J.D. Allen, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Yokohama Jazz Promenade (Yokohama, Japan), the Kennedy Center, Birdland (NYC), and The Stone (NYC).