Ellis Marsalis Jr.

Ellis Marsalis Jr.

Ellis Marsalis Jr. performing on June 6, 2004
Background information
Birth name Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr.
Born (1934-11-14) November 14, 1934
Origin New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, teacher
Instruments Piano
Years active 1949–present
Labels Blue Note, Columbia, Sony, Rounder
Website Official website

Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr.[1] (born November 14, 1934) is an American jazz pianist.

Active since the late 1940s, Marsalis came to greater attention in the 1980s and 1990s as the patriarch of a musical family, with sons Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis rising to international acclaim.

He can usually be seen performing on Fridays at Snug Harbor jazz bistro in New Orleans.

Life and career

Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Florence (née Robertson) and Ellis Marsalis Sr., a businessman and social activist.[2] Marsalis and wife Delores Ferdinand have six sons: Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis III (1964), Delfeayo Marsalis, Mboya Kinyatta Marsalis (1971), and Jason Marsalis. Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason are also jazz musicians. Ellis is a poet, photographer, and network engineer based in Baltimore.

Ellis started out as a tenor saxophonist, switching to piano while in high school. From his first professional performance with "The Groovy Boys" over fifty years ago, Ellis Marsalis has been a major influence in jazz. At that time, Marsalis was one of the few New Orleans musicians who did not specialize in Dixieland or rhythm and blues. He played with fellow modernists including Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, and Al Hirt, becoming one of the most respected pianists in jazz. Though he has recorded almost twenty of his own albums, and was featured on many discs with such musicians as David “Fathead” Newman, Eddie Harris, Marcus Roberts, and Courtney Pine, he shunned the spotlight to focus on teaching. Marsalis's didactic approach, combined with an interest in philosophy, encourages his students to make discoveries in music on their own, through experiment and very careful listening.

As a leading educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana, Ellis has influenced the careers of countless musicians, including Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton; as well as his four musician sons: Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason. In May, 2007, Marsalis received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University for his contributions to jazz and musical education.

On December 7, 2008, Ellis Marsalis was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music at Musicians' Village in New Orleans is named in honor of Ellis Marsalis. In 2010, The Marsalis Family released a live album titled Music Redeems which was recorded at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC as part of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. All proceeds from the sale of the album go directly to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

Marsalis and his sons are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award.[3]

Marsalis is a Brother of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, initiated into Delta Epsilon Chapter (University of Louisiana-Lafayette) in 1965. In 2015 Sinfonia announced that Marsalis has been named Sinfonia's 24th Man of Music, the highest honor given by the fraternity to a member, for advancing the cause of music in America through performance, composition or any other musical activity.[4]

Partial discography

As leader

With Irvin Mayfield

Released Album Artist Label
"Irvin Mayfield"
Irvin Mayfield
Half Note Records

With others


  1. Handy, D.A. (1999). Jazz Man's Journey: A Biography of Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9781578860067. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  2. "Ancestry of Wynton Marsalis". wargs.com. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  3. National Endowment for the Arts (June 24, 2010). "National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters". Washington: National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved July 19, 2010. For the first time in the program's 29-year history, in addition to four individual awards, the NEA will present a group award to the Marsalis family, New Orleans' venerable first family of jazz.
  4. "Sinfonia Names 24th Man of Music « 55th National Convention". singasone2015.org. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  5. Chris Stewart. "62-0509a". cannonballjazz.com. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
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