If we are focusing on New Orleans, Black History Month and Jazz then we cannot leave out the Marsalis family. The "first family of jazz" includes father Ellis on piano, with his sons Wynton on trumpet, Brandford on saxophone, Delfeayo on trombone and Jason on drums. Proving beyond any doubt that there is something special happening in New Orleans.
Ellis was born in New Orleans in 1936 and still calls it home today. After serving in the U.S. Marines Ellis recorded with Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the early 1960s before joining Al Hirt's band in the late '60s. In the 1970s Ellis focused his attention on Jazz education. He works with the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, University of New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana. Continuing to pass the rich musical tradition of New Orleans handed down to him, Ellis' pupils include Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Harry Connick Jr, Kent and Marlon Jordan, his own sons of course and many more. Ellis still performs regularly at the club Snug Harbor in New Orleans.
Wynton Marsalis was born in 1961 in New Orleans and given his first trumpet by Al Hirt. Wynton was playing professionally by the time he was fourteen and joined Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers when he was just nineteen years old. Wynton played with Herbie Hancock in the early 1980s and before he even reached twenty five years old won two Grammys in both Jazz and Classical music. He started a band with brother Branford before co founding the Jazz at the Lincoln Center program in 1987 and leading the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In 1997 Wynton won a Pulitzer Prize for his work 'Blood on the Fields' about a couple moving from slavery to freedom. He remains at the top today as one of the major spokespersons for Jazz and Jazz education.
Brandford Marsalis was born in 1960 in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and first studied with his father at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Branford joined the Art Blakey Big Band in 1980, played with Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and joined Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1981 with his brother Wynton. He also worked with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock before joining Sting's band in 1985. Since then, Branford has led his own groups, directed the Tonight Show band for a period, acted in films and is a radio host on National Public Radio.
Delfeayo Marsalis was born in New Orleans in 1965 and has grow into a mean trombonist in the style of J.J. Johnson. After studying music, producing and engineering at Berklee College of Music he began his career as a record producer in 1985. Since then he has made his mark as a performer working with the likes of Ray Charles, Art Blakey, Abdullah Ibrahim and Elvin Jones.
Jason Marsalis was born in New Orleans in 1977 and began playing drums professionally with his father at age twelve. Jason was one of the founders of he very successful band Los Hombres Calientes in the late '90s before joining up with Marcus Roberts. Jason has also been performing on the vibraphone showing off his full musicianship. He continues to work with Ellis and Delfeayo, Marcus Roberts, John Ellis and Dr Michael White.