On Wednesday (April 1), Jazz legend Ellis Marsalis Jr., passed away at age 85 from pneumonia set on by COVID-19, the Associated Press reports. The acclaimed pianist’s son Branford Marsalis issued a statement on the patriarch’s passing, noting that he was hospitalized since Saturday (March 28).
“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Ellis Marsalis Jr., as a result of complications from the Coronavirus. He was admitted to the hospital on Saturday and died peacefully this evening. My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father. He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be.”
His other son Wynton Marsalis tweeted a series of photos of him and his father, captioning the images: “He went out the way he lived: embracing reality.”
Ellis Marsalis, 1934 – 2020
He went out the way he lived: embracing reality pic.twitter.com/sPyYUuBoIG
— Wynton Marsalis (@wyntonmarsalis) April 2, 2020
In the spirit of passing along his musical knowledge and skills, Marsalis served as a jazz professor at various Louisiana-based universities and schools in his native New Orleans. Those included Xavier University, University of New Orleans, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He also received an honorary degree from Tulane University in 2007.
From playing at local clubs to becoming a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Marsalis’ musical prowess inspired a line of other famous Jazz musicians, including his former student Harry Connick Jr. “He already knew everything i was trying to learn; but he always made me figure things out for myself,” Connick Jr. wrote. “He was a grand master educator, an inimitable pianist, a caring mentor and a dear friend. I wouldn’t be who i am without him.”
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my heart is heavy today. among the countless lessons ellis marsalis taught me, the most important was the process of discovery. he already knew everything i was trying to learn; but he always made me figure things out for myself. he was a grand master educator, an inimitable pianist, a caring mentor and a dear friend. i wouldn’t be who i am without him. i’ll miss him with all my heart. my prayers are with the marsalis family today. i love you so much, mr. marsalis. #ellismarsalis