Ellis Marsalis Jr., the legendary jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of the New Orleans musical clan died on the 1st of March after battling pneumonia brought by the coronavirus. He was 85 when he died.
Born in New Orleans in 1934, he started as a saxophonist, switching to the piano while he was in high school. Marsalis was one of the few New Orleans performers of the era who did not specialize in Dixieland or rhythm & blues. He played with fellow modernists in the late ’50s with AFO, recorded with Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the 1960s, played with Al Hirt (1967-1970.) Ellis finally received his long-overdue recognition, while playing with sons, Wynton and Branford. The Marsalis family band seldom played together when the boys were younger but in 2003, they toured East in an offshoot of a family celebration that became a PBS special when the Marsalis retired from teaching at the University of New Orleans.
Ellis Marsalis III, the son of Ellis Marsalis Jr., confirmed in a phone interview that Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise. But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19 that had caused the seriousness. He said he drove from Baltimore to be with his father as he was hospitalized in Louisiana.
Wynton, a trumpeter, is one of America’s most famous jazz spokesman as he is the artistic director of jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center. Branford, saxophonist, and has led The Tonight Show band and toured with rock musician Sting. Delfeayo, a trombonist, is a recording producer and performer. Jason, a percussionist, has made a name for himself with his band and as an accompanist. His entire family spent time with him, while he was in the hospital.
With the coronavirus taking so many lives over the globe, we hope that the disease is contained in the coming time. We hope that Marsalis rests in peace.