Ellis Marsalis, piano
Jason Stewart, bass
Derek Douget, sax
Joe Dyson, drums
Ellis Marsalis is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans and a pivotal figure in shaping the landscape of today's jazz scene. The father of saxophonist Branford, trumpet player Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo, and drummer Jason (as well as Ellis III and Mboya), he was born in 1934 and began his career on saxophone before switching to piano. While stationed in southern California in the U.S. Marine Corps, he honed his pianist skills as a member of the Corps Four, a Marines jazz quartet that performed on television and radio shows. After completing his Marine Corps duty, he returned to New Orleans and married New Orleans native Dolores Ferdinand.
Marsalis began freelancing on the New Orleans music scene in 1966, performing at the Playboy Club and several other nightclubs around the city. He also played dates with Cannonball and Nat Adderley, as well as Al Hirt. Despite his rising star as a performer, however, he devoted much of his energy to education. As his family continued to grow, he earned a master's degree at Loyola University. In 1974, he took a job as instructor at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where he spent the next 12 years teaching. Between his work here and at several other schools, including Xavier University of Louisiana, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of New Orleans (where he chaired the Jazz Studies department for 12 years), he shaped the lives of countless young jazz musicians, including Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Harry Connick Jr., and, of course, his four musical sons.
Marsalis is the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from his alma mater Dillard University, Ball State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Tulane University, and The Juilliard School. In 2011, he and his family were also awarded the highest honor in jazz, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master award. The honor was the first group award ever distributed by the NEA. Marsalis remains active as a teacher and performing pianist, leading and touring with his own quartet. He has several recordings on the CBS-Sony label and currently releases recordings on his own label, Elm Records, developed with his wife Dolores and son Jason. His latest record on the imprint is A New Orleans Christmas Carol, released in 2011.
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