New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis has died at 85 from complications from COVID-19. The jazz pianist and educator was the father of renowned musicians Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis.
Pitchfork relayed the news from the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. They also provided quotes from from New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell and Ellis’s son, Branford, about the legend’s passing.
“Ellis Marsalis was a legend,” Cantrell tweeted. “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.”
Ellis Marsalis was a legend. 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.
📸: Chris Granger/New Orleans Advocate pic.twitter.com/yQTMk62wIm
— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) April 2, 2020
“My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father,” Branford wrote. “He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be. And to quote my friend and Harvard Law Professor David Wilkins who just sent me the following text: ‘We can all marvel at the sheer audacity of a man who believed he could teach his black boys to be excellent in a world that denied that very possibility, and then watch them go on to redefine what excellence means for all time.’”
Wynton also tweeted a tribute to his father, simply saying, “He went out the way he lived: embracing reality.” He posted a more thorough and reflective tribute on his Facebook page.
Ellis Marsalis, 1934 – 2020
He went out the way he lived: embracing reality pic.twitter.com/sPyYUuBoIG
— Wynton Marsalis (@wyntonmarsalis) April 2, 2020
Marsalis recorded 20 albums of his own, and contributed on countless others. He and his sons, including Grammy winners Branford and Wynton, collaborate and produced several albums, as well. As an educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, University of New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana, he directly influenced and impacted the careers of myriad musicians. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tulane University for his contributions to both jazz and musical education.