Jazz Friday: Ellis Marsalis


Among the many tragedies we are experiencing with Covid-19, we recently lost Ellis Marsalis. Ellis was a remarkable jazz pianist that was known for his clever riffs and his passion for teaching. Among his many students that went on to have their own music careers are Harry Connick, Jr. and Stephen Colbert sideman Jon Batiste.

Ellis was also the patriarch of the Marsalis family and nearly all of his sons went on to have music careers including Branford Marsalis, one of my favorite contemporary saxophonists, and Wynton Marsalis, who is the artistic director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center.

Ellis made a lot of albums over his career and I’ve spent the last week listening to a lot of them. One of my very favorite tracks he recorded was West Side Story’s “Maria” with his son, Brandford on soprano sax (Apple Music) (Amazon). I love the way he just fills the piano with the right notes. There are so many great Ellis Marsalis tracks, however, that I’d recommend going into your streaming service of choice and listening to him.

Wynton Marsalis summed it up best about his dad, “He could swing like nobody’s business.”