The Marsalis Family News

From jazz to classical, Branford Marsalis stays busy

Publication: The Advocate
Author: John Wirt
Date: March 27, 2014

Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis just returned to the U.S. from London. He spent challenging days there studying Baroque ornamentation with flutist Stephen Preston. This week he’s playing jazz gigs in Puerto Rico, Florida and Indiana. Next week he’s in Baton Rouge and Florida again. The following week he goes to Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Marsalis, the eldest son of New Orleans’ modern-jazz pianist, composer and educator Ellis Marsalis, moves between playing jazz with his Branford Marsalis Quartet and performing classical concertos with symphony orchestras. He also composes music for the Broadway stage and teaches.

Before his two Wednesday shows at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge, Marsalis will join his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, their father, Ellis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in concert Saturday at Butler University in Indianapolis.

The Marsalis family and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra being the great jazz musicians they are, only a minimum of musical preparation is necessary for the Indianapolis concert.

A Marsalis family concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for instance, which can be heard in the 2009 album, “Music Redeems,” came together at 2 a.m. the night before the event.

“Wynton and I both flew straight into D.C., from Europe that day,” Marsalis said. “We know what we’re doing.”

An accomplished musician at 53, the Durham, N.C.-based Marsalis nevertheless makes time to practice hours a day, every day. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 28th, 2014 — 01:18pm

Interview: Ellis and Wynton Marsalis

Publication: NUVO News
Author: Scott Shoger
Date: March 26, 2014

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. — the paterfamilias of the jazz-playing Marsalis clan — says he was “never big on family bands.” Maybe that’s why even after the Marsalis family performed together for the first time during a retirement celebration for Ellis in 2001, they still don’t play as a family all that often. The sole date on their online schedule is their Clowes Hall show. And then they’ll go their separate ways: Wynton with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; Ellis, Branford and Jason with their respective quartets; Delfeayo with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra; spoken word artist Ellis III to wherever it is that he issues his oracular judgments on American life (Wynton will have more on that in a minute).

In short, all the Marsalises lead busy professional and personal lives, so it’s only when Ellis is “interested in doing it,” according to Wynton, that they get together for another show. “He’s at the stage now of his life where we try to get together and touch base with him,” he adds. I talked with both Ellis and Wynton this week: Ellis from New Orleans; Wynton from somewhere on the road between San Francisco and Ames, Iowa (he prefers not to fly when he has a choice). The results are as follow, but a quick bio seems in order:

Born in New Orleans in 1934, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. came up as jazz pianist, playing in a modern style that wasn’t obviously indebted to Dixieland and R&B, before moving into education, eventually teaching on both a high school and university level, notably at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He and his wife, Delores, have six sons, five of whom will perform at Clowes. There’s Branford, an adventurous saxophonist who’s worked with Art Blakey, Sting and the Grateful Dead and briefly served as musical director for The Tonight Show. Wynton, a nine-time Grammy winner, long-time artistic head of Jazz at Lincoln Center and notorious contrarian. Ellis, who contributes spoken word monologues to some Marsalis Family gigs. Trombonist Delfeayo, who has followed directly in his dad’s path in becoming a New Orleans-based educator. And drummer Jason, the youngest Marsalis, who has spent more time performing with his dad than any other son.

Feel free to consult Wikipedia or, hell, the Grove Dictionary of Music for more information; for now, to the interviews!
  

NUVO: So, who calls the shots at a Marsalis Family show? Your dad?

Wynton Marsalis: Yeah, we go along with him, whatever he wants. He sacrificed for us so much, we have so much respect for him that it’s not a problem.

NUVO: Is there any different sort of chemistry when playing with your family vs. playing with other talented musicians?

Wynton: We all grew up listening to our father’s music. But for Branford and I, it’s different because we grew up playing together. We didn’t play with Delfeayo so much because he’s younger than us. And Jason was two when I left home. He’s such a talented musician, with his hearing and the understanding of the concepts of what we play. He grew up playing with my father, so I’m sure there’s a chemistry between them. Read more »

Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of America’s First Family of Music

Publication: Post-Tribune
Author: Diane Kubiak
Date: April 6, 2012

If recent reviews are an indication, ticket holders can expect a musical treat from jazz master Ellis Marsalis, headliner of the Valparaiso University 27th annual Jazz Festival on Saturday, April 14.

Jazz reviewer Dean Shapiro of “Where Y’At” magazine had high praise for the elder Marsalis’ release of “Jazz at Christmas in New Orleans” last fall. “It invites the listener to tune in with a fresh set of ears,” he wrote.

Although the selections were familiar, “only a master composer/arranger like pianist Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of America’s First Family of Music, could have pulled off such an astounding transformation,” Shapiro wrote.

Marsalis’ musical transformations in other works are done both with respect for the original and with the entire history of the genre at his fingertips. Consider his CD “An Open Letter to Thelonious Monk.” The song “Deceleration” does more than put one into a relaxed mood; the music requires one to relax in order to appreciate the subtle harmonies and dissonances as they keep the listener in that delicious place between surrender to the lyrics and anticipation of its next nuance.

His command of the history of his genre comes forth, too, in the CD “Homecoming,” a reissue of the famous 1984 recording session of Ellis with Eddie Harris on tenor sax. In Ellis’ left hand one can hear the rhythm of New Orleans in the beat of people striding down “Hickory and Cognac Streets,” as the song is entitled.

Marsalis recently shared some of that New Orleans history in a phone interview that included insights into his craft, his teaching, the upbringing of his six sons and the struggle to “make a living” in times that were transforming both musically and socially.

A new Orleans native

Born on Nov. 11, 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, Ellis Marsalis began his formal music studies at age 11 when he attended the Xavier University Junior School of Music. “I was fortunate enough to be born in New Orleans,” he said. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 6th, 2012 — 03:14pm

JAZZ NOTE 19 – HAVE A FAMILY REUNION

Publication: We Heart Music
Author: Dave
Date: March 5, 2012

What makes New Orleans not only a musician’s town but also a place that produces musical families? Take the Marsalis family. There’s Wynton, one of jazz’s more tireless promoters. Then you have Branford, Delfeayo and Jason. Plus, don’t forget the man who started it all, Ellis.

What is surprising about this multi-gifted family is how they never grew up playing together à la the Von Trapps, the Osmonds or Hanson. Ellis was aware of the gimmicky nature of children dressed in uniformed costumes trying to please a taskmaster of a father. He had no intention of pushing his kids to follow his tradition. If Ellis’ sons wanted to learn jazz, he would show them how, but they would have to discover what it meant to them on their own.

That’s what Ellis did most of his life, first teaching music in high school before moving on to New Orleans University. In fact, The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration is a concert that only came to fruition because Ellis was retiring from the University’s jazz department. Only at the end of a distinguished career would his sons come to play together for the very first time. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 6th, 2012 — 01:17pm

The Marsalis family: The Times-Picayune covers 175 years of New Orleans history

Publication: The Times-Picayune
Date: February 1, 2012
Author: Keith Spera

In a city known for musical families, few have affected the jazz community in New Orleans and beyond as greatly as the Marsalis clan. As a fluent pianist and composer, patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. has gigged with Al Hirt’s band and Bob French’s Storyville Jazz Band, led his own groups and released his own albums.

As a music educator, he taught at Xavier University, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Virginia Commonwealth University. His students included Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Irvin Mayfield and Donald Harrison Jr.

In 1989, he returned to New Orleans from Virginia to establish the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans. He encouraged his students to perform at local nightclubs, simultaneously gaining experience and infusing the scene with fresh talent. He continues to perform most Friday nights at Snug Harbor.

Four of his and wife Dolores’ six sons are professional musicians.

Branford Marsalis, a saxophonist with an especially modernist approach, served as the bandleader on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and recorded and performed with the pop star Sting, among many others. He founded a jazz record label, Marsalis Music, and now lives in North Carolina. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 1st, 2012 — 02:48pm