Jazz Patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. Has Died
Ellis Marsalis – noted jazz pianist and patriarch the Crescent City’s famed Marsalis family – has died due to complications of COVID-19. He was 85.
Ellis was the father of four sons – Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis – all accomplished musicians in their own right.
“My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father,” Branford said in a press statement. “He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be.”
Ellis was born on Nov. 14, 1934, raised in New Orleans’ “Gert Town” neighborhood and later graduated from NOLA’s Dillard University with a B.A. in music education. Across generations, the Marsalis family was tied closely to their home city, performing regularly across New Orleans and especially at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
In 2016, the family was immortalized in Jazz Fest’s highly-coveted official poster, and just last year all four sons and Ellis played a set in the Jazz Tent in the patriarch’s honor.
Ellis recorded 15 albums over his career and was known by many for his longstanding weekly gig at New Orleans’ Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro. He taught at the University of New Orleans, and counted stars like his son and Harry Connick Jr. among his musical protegees.
“Ellis Marsalis was a legend,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell wrote upon hearing of Ellis’ passing. “He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. The love and the prayers of all of our people go out to his family, and to all of those whose lives he touched.”