NEW ORLEANS (CelebrityAccess) — Jazz piano legend and patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr., father to Wynton and Branford Marsalis, died on April 1st. He was 85.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, his son, Ellis Marsalis III said that the elder Marsalis was hospitalized with symptoms of COVID-19 and pneumonia but that lab results for a COVID-19 test were still pending.
“Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise. But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19,” Ellis Marsalis III told the Associated Press.
Ellis Marsalis Jr. was a fixture in the New Orleans jazz scene for decades as both a performer and an educator.
He learned to play the saxophone in high school but later took up the piano while he studied classical music at Dillard University and later at Loyola, where he attended graduate school.
Marsalis was a prolific recording artist, with more than 20 albums as a bandleader, and dozens of collaborations with other artists, including Wynton and Brandford, Kermit Ruffins, Ed Blackwell, Cannonball Adderly, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to name a few.
He was also a leading educator at the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where his students included Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Donald Harrison, Kent and Marlon Jordan, and Nicholas Payton.
Marsalis was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
Marsalis’s wife Dolores preceded him in death, passing in 2017. He is survived by his sons Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya Kinyatta, and Jason.