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Giant Steps: Marsalis Family

Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:28

The Adderly’s and Coles, the Staples, the  Jones’ and Montgomery’s, the father daughter Gilberto clan, jazz has a distinctive keep it in the family vibe running throughout it’s history it’s present and future. At the top of the heap representing all three -- the Marsalis family. The first family of jazz.

In the context of black history -- family is everything. Slaveholders, knew that in order to break a people, they first had to splinter the family unit. There is an undeniable strength when those of the same blood come together with a common purpose.

From generation to generation passing down the skills, the trade, the secrets and stories is part of the fabric of New Orleans home to the Marsellis crew. A mardi gras costume, a trumpet passed from hand to hand, songs associated with one crew, one clan. Add a degree of musical excellence to all of that and you have and exceptional family. The family includes father, Ellis and his sons Branford Wynton, Delfeayo , and Jason. Ellis Marsalis grew up in a segregated New Orleans, specifically in Gert Town. But music was a great equalizer in the 30’s and Ellis being a pianist with not only skill but vision wasn’t afraid to push that vision.

He not only played with some of the best he also took it upon himself to mentor and tutor the likes of Harry Connick Jr, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton. And the story of his own sons success is the stuff of legend -- countless Grammys, accolades, the songs written, the concerts and collaborations - a remarkable legacy. Ellis Marsalis need to look no further than his own doorstep to see the fruits of keeping the family unit history it was a matter of survival -- in the world of jazz it is a matter of one family forming the foundation for generations to come. 

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