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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ellis Marsalis, Jr., Legendary New Orleans Jazz Pianist, Dead at 85, Likely from COVID-19.

Legendary jazz pianist, Ellis Marsalis Jr. - father of 6 sons, 4 of whom are jazz musicians, 2 of whom are multi-Grammy winners (Wynton, trumpet; Branford, saxophone) -  music teacher and co-father to Harry Connick, Jr. -  just passed away in New Orleans at age 85, likely from COVID-19.

Just an FYI, as you watch this clip and listen to his sons, note that  unlike the rest of Louisiana, true New Orleans natives
sound more like they're from Brooklyn, NYC -  with a slight drawl lol. Just a few words here and there (i.e. "dah" instead of "duh" or "the" like in Brooklyn) and a slight drawl give it away.

Think Harry Connick Jr.'s accent, which is the classic NOLA accent, loud and clear in this clip, in which he talks about Ellis's mentorship, as well his BFF, Branford Marsalis (Ellis makes a cameo appearance beginning at 6:25)  ...

As a quick aside, Harry, just like the city of New Orleans itself, is a living proof you can have a successful cultural blend without anyone losing cultural identity, by embracing qualities which Western society has wrongfully deemed  as polar opposites. 

For starters, he is equally accomplished in both classical and jazz piano, which is unusual - you're usually better at one than the other. His father was the popular, but controversial, district attorney of New Orleans from 1973-2003, and his mother was a judge, meaning his father tried cases before his mother as the judge lol - and yet they were married for 28 years until her death from ovarian cancer.  His mother was Jewish, from NYC; his father was Irish Catholic, from Alabama.  (His parents gave him a choice, fully converting Catholic at age 14, but now embraces both faiths).  

Despite very active law and political careers, as is the way of many professional people in New Orleans, his parents were also musicians and owned a record store; thus, they recognized his child-prodigy gifts and supported his decision to follow a career path as a classical and jazz pianist instead of law and politics.  

After the death of his mother from ovarian cancer when he was 13, the Marsalis family essentially co-parented Harry from that time on :)

Thus, back to his co-family, the Marsalises, my husband was lucky enough to see Ellis, Wynton, and Branford play together in concert in 1995, but I never did :(

Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, Ellis will likely not have not a proper New Orleans Jazz funeral - which would likely have been the biggest one in decades :(

Thus, in true New Orleans style, allow me to give him a proper New Orleans tribute from here :)

A sad jazz dirge by the family, friends, and a first-line band all march somberly all the way to the cemetery,  parasols down, followed by an upbeat old life/new life Dixieland-Jazz celebration song as they leave - joined by an "all are welcome" second line dance party,  waving handkerchiefs and opening parasols in tribute :)

"Melancholia" - Ellis Marsalis, Jr. 

"Struttin' with Some Barbecue" - Ellis Jr., Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis 

RIP, Ellis - I'm so sorry there won't be a proper funeral, but if there was, I'd be dancing in your second-line. 

Thank you :)

PS -  Snuggy Pug loved music, but he especially loved jazz, he'd have a special reaction to it.  So I'd pick him up and dance him around, he'd wag his tail :)

But he especially loved smooth jazz, it soothed him when he was restless after he became ill.  I put it on every day while I was working.  

If he was restless, I'd say, "Snuggy, want momma to put on the pretty music for you?" 

I'd put it on, he'd quiet right away and go right to sleep :)

So Ellis, if you see my Snuggy Pug, who just preceded you there by 4 days, would you mind picking him up and dancing around with him for me, jazz funeral style?   He loved that ... :(

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