This obituary is an element of a sequence about individuals who have died within the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others right here.
Ellis Marsalis Jr., a pianist and educator who grew to become the guiding drive behind a late-20th-century resurgence in jazz and who helped to form the musical careers of 4 sons, died on Wednesday at a hospital in New Orleans. He was 85.
The trigger was issues of Covid-19, the illness brought on by the coronavirus, his son Branford stated.
Mr. Marsalis had spent a long time as a working musician and educator in his native New Orleans — mentoring his personal kids in addition to many different younger musicians — earlier than his sons Wynton and Branford discovered fame within the early 1980s.
Mr. Marsalis’s star quickly rose as properly, and earlier than lengthy he was a family identify. In New Orleans, his devotion to bebop and its offshoots branded him as an outsider; it additionally put him on the progressive finish of the stylistic spectrum in a metropolis the place most musicians caught to a extra conventional fashion rooted within the early 20th century. On the nationwide stage, his household’s promotion of straight-ahead jazz turned Mr. Marsalis and his extravagantly gifted younger sons into the shepherds of a new motion in jazz.
“Ellis Marsalis was a legend,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening. “He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz.”
In 1979, when Mr. Marsalis performed common gigs at the Carnegie Tavern, at West 56th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, The New York Times famous that he eschewed the normal New Orleans stylings of many of his friends, and described him as an alternative as “an eclectic performer with a light and graceful touch, but more exploratory turn of mind.”
Ellis L. Marsalis was born in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 1934.
His father, Ellis L. Marsalis Sr., who died in 2004, was involved in the civil rights movement as the owner of the Marsalis Motel in suburban New Orleans; its guests included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. from New York, the future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the musician Ray Charles.
Though he became a prominet jazz musician in his own right, Mr. Marsalis Jr. was perhaps best known as a mentor to his children, four of whom followed their father into careers in jazz.
Wynton Marsalis, a trumpeter and composer, became the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1997. Branford became a world-renowned saxophonist and bandleader with multiple Grammy Awards; Delfeayo, a trombonist; and Jason, a drummer.
Mr. Marsalis earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Dillard University in 1955, and played jazz until enlisting in the Marine Corps the following year, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. He became a member of the Corps Four, a Marines jazz quartet that performed on television and radio to increase recruiting efforts, the endowment said.
In the 1970s, he earned a master’s degree in music education at Loyola University, according to the endowment, and went on to teach at the Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of New Orleans, where he led the jazz department for 12 years.
In 2008, Mr. Marsalis was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts gave the family a “jazz masters” award in recognition of its many contributions to American music and culture.
Mr. Marsalis’s wife, Dolores, died in 2017. He is survived by his sons, Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, MBoya and Jason; his sister Yvette; and 13 grandchildren.
Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting.