Ellis Marsalis Jr. (1934-2020)

Ellis Marsalis Jr., patriarch of the New Orleans jazz family, father of trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and drummer-vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, has died at 85.

Branford Marsalis said his father died of complications from Covid-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus.

“He went out the way he lived: embracing reality,” Wynton Marsalis wrote on Twitter.

Ellis Marsalis was a longtime pianist, composer and teacher, serving on the faculty of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts for 11 years before being appointed Commonwealth professor of jazz studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1986. He left VCU in 1988 to run the jazz program at the University of New Orleans.

His “devotion to midcentury bebop and its offshoots had long made him something of an outsider in a city with an abiding loyalty to its early-jazz roots. Still, he secured the respect of fellow musicians thanks to his unshakable talents as a pianist and composer, and his supportive but rigorous manner as an educator,” Giovanni Russonello and Michael Levenson write in an obituary for The New York Times:

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