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Ellis Marsalis

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Biography

It is a bit ironic that Ellis Marsalis had to wait for sons Wynton and Branford to get famous before he was able to record on a regular basis, but Ellis finally received his long-overdue recognition. The father of six sons (including Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason), Ellis Marsalis' main importance to jazz may very well be as a jazz educator; his former pupils (in addition to his sons) include Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Harry Connick, Jr., Nicholas Payton, and Kent and Marlon Jordan, among others. He started out as a tenor saxophonist, switching to piano while in high school. Marsalis was one of the few New Orleans musicians of the era who did not specialize in Dixieland or rhythm & blues. He played with fellow modernists (including Ed Blackwell) in the late '50s with AFO, recorded with Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the 1960s, played with Al Hirt (1967-1970), and was busy as a teacher. Marsalis freelanced in New Orleans during the 1970s and taught at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He recorded with Wynton and Branford on Father and Sons in 1982, an album that they shared with Chico and Von Freeman. After that, Marsalis recorded for ELM, Spindletop (a duet session with Eddie Harris), Rounder, Blue Note, and Columbia, issuing Twelve's It on the latter in 1998. Duke in Blue followed a year later. Since that time, Marsalis has kept busy releasing Afternoon Session, An Open Letter to Thelonious, and Ruminations.

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Born:

14 November 1934 in New Orleans, LA

Genre
Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s

Contemporaries