© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

November Feature: The Marsalis Family

Throughout November, Night Train features music from today's first family of American jazz - the Marsalis Family. Though Wynton Marsalis is perhaps the best known member, father Ellis and brothers Branford, Delfeayo and Jason are also accomplished musicians with impressive careers in their own right. They also have the unique distinction of being the only family to have collectively been named NEA Jazz Masters.

Ellis Marsalis is an accomplished pianist and one of the pioneering modernists in New Orleans music. Though he has appeared on nearly two dozen albums under his own name, his greater legacy may be his profound influence as a jazz educator, shaping the careers not only of his sons, but of a whole generation of jazz musicians who emerged from the Crescent City to have major national careers.

Wynton is perhaps the best known member of the family, a trumpeter, composer, tireless recording artist and champion of jazz, music educator and current Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has won nine Grammys and a host of other music and honorary awards and was the first jazz artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Branford is an accomplished saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. After studying at Berklee, he (and Wynton) were part of Art Blakey's famed Jazz Messengers. He attracted attention outside of jazz circles working with Sting, appearing in Spike Lee's School Daze film, and heading The Tonight Show Band. In more recent years, he's charted an adventurous course, incorporating both hip hop and avant elements into his work.

Delfeayo is an accomplished trombonist and has released several albums under his own name. However, he has largely focused on work as a producer, behind the board on over 100 albums for members of his family, Harry Connick, Jr., Marcus Roberts, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more.

Jason is the youngest and the percussionist of the family. He was a founding member of the adventurous Los Hombres Calientes with Irvin Mayfield and Bill Summers that celebrated the sounds of New Orleans and its connections to a variety of Caribbean and other influences. He went on to work with Marcus Roberts (including on a new album that teams the Roberts trio with banjoist Bela Fleck), various family members, Dr. Michael White and also has several albums under his own name.

NEA Jazz Masters Tribute to the Marsalis Family:

Ellis Marsalis, solo, with "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most":

Wynton at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall performing "Cherokee":

Compare the previous video to Branford at Bern's Jazz Festival, with his version of "Cherokee":

Delfeayo with a live performance of "Blue Monk":

Jason with his Vibes Quartet from a live 2012 performance in New York:

Chris Heim produces and hosts Global Village, a nationally and internationally distributed world music show; the nightly jazz show Night Train, and Crossroads, KMUW’s twice-weekly blues and R&B show. Chris is also a critic and freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Utne, Global Rhythm, Dirty Linen, and Option, among others.