Jazz Legend Ellis Marsalis Dies At 85 From COVID-19

He was the patriarch of jazz music’s ‘first family’

Ellis Marsalis, legendary jazz pianist and teacher, died on Wednesday (April 1) at 85 years old due to the coronavirus.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Ellis Marsalis Jr.” his son Branford Marsalis said in a statement. “He was admitted to the hospital on Saturday and died peacefully this evening.”

Marsalis was reportedly dealing with pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19. He passed in a Baltimore hospital.

“Pneumonia was the actual thing that caused his demise. But it was pneumonia brought on by COVID-19,” his son Ellis Marsalis III told the Associated Press.

Ellis Marsalis, often described as the patriarch of jazz music’s “First Family,” first made a name for himself as a pianist in the 50s and 60s, recording nearly 20 albums, Vulture reports. 

He went on to teach the new generation of jazz musicians including his four sons, saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo, drummer Jason and trumpeter Wynton.

Marsalis retired from teaching in 2001 but continued performing at New Orleans’ Snug Harbor. In 2008, Ellis was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He recently stepped down from performing in January, NBC reports.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell shared her condolences for Marsalis' passing with a statement on Twitter.

Marsalis’ wife, Dolores, died in 2017. He is survived by his sons Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya and Jason.

"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," Branford Marsalis said in his statement.

Our condolences go out to his family, friends and supporters.

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