Ellis Marsalis plays with the Ellis Marsalis Trio at Tulane University's Dixon Hall in New Orleans on Oct. 21, 2010. (Tulane Public Relations via Wikimedia Commons)
Ellis Marsalis plays with the Ellis Marsalis Trio at Tulane University's Dixon Hall in New Orleans on Oct. 21, 2010. (Tulane Public Relations via Wikimedia Commons)

Ellis Marsalis Jr., jazz pianist and patriarch of the iconic New Orleans musical family, died Wednesday night. He was 85.

At the time of his death, Marsalis was hospitalized with symptoms of the novel coronavirus, with test results pending.

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

An icon in New Orleans for decades, Marsalis taught at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana, guiding the careers of several future stars along the way, including his sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason.

He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

“Ellis Marsalis was a legend,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. The love and the prayers of all of our people go out to his family, and to all of those whose lives he touched. He was a teacher, a father, and an icon … This loss cuts us deeply.”

Marsalis was preceded in death by wife Delores in 2017. He is survived by sons Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya Kinyatta and Jason.

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This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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