Author: Mitchell Peters
Date: October 16, 2010
In June 2009, New Orleans’ Marsalis family of jazz musicians - father Ellis (piano) and sons Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums) - gathered for a rare, sold-out performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
During the evening, Ellis received the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, the National Endowment for the Arts honored the Marsalis family with a 2011 Jazz Masters Award.
Since the family performs together so infrequently, the artists decided to record the June concert. Months later, Branford listened to the recording and was pleased with what he heard. “I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty good, actually,’ he says. “It was a lot of fun too. So I called the guys and said, ‘Look, we have some good stuff and we can make a record out of it. What do you think?’ They said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”
Instead of divvying up the profits from the set, the family is donating sales proceeds to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, an education center in New Orleans’ Musicians’ Village community. The center, conceived by Branford and Harry Connick, Jr. in partnership with New Orleans Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina, will open in spring 2011.
“This money will go toward the programming, because we’re going to have concerts and classrooms, and the teachers have to get paid,” Branford says. “So this is really going to help the funding of the programming.”
Marsalis Music released the “Music Redeems” live set, which features Connick and humorous Marsalis family stories, on August 24. It has sold 2,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Traditional Jazz Albums chart.