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The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration

Mark F. Turner By

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Ellis reveals that he never wanted a family band, and later explains why he is proud of sons. They made it work by performing, and doing it their way.
If you happened to miss the rare of event of the entire Marsalis family performing onstage together for the first time, then the DVD of the live performance is the next best thing to being there. “The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration” concert was held on August 2001, in honor of the father Ellis Marsalis’ retirement from the “University of New Orleans”.

The DVD captures not only the unique essence of live jazz, but also chronicles one of modern jazz’s most talented and notable families. For those who know jazz music, the name Marsalis is as familiar as Louis “Satchmo”Armstrong. Brothers Wynton and Branford have been in the spotlight for years as performers, composers, and spoke persons, while the lesser known but equally talented siblings Delfeayo and Jason have also carried the torch admirably in their own way. What is visually revealed in the concert footage is the family’s source of talent: The incomparable wisdom, cool, and influence of: Ellis Marsalis.

Ellis’ cool and consummate skills are a treat to witness as the concert features him performing in various group settings with his sons or one on one with special guest Harry Connick Jr. An accomplished musician, Ellis style is as smooth as silk as his fingers glide over the piano keys almost effortlessly. His chops are equally impressive whether swinging or quietly plays solo.

The music for the concert represents a montage of jazz styles. In one of the DVD interviews the eldest son, Delfeayo, gives an interesting viewpoint of the historical timeline of the concert music. From the New Orleans flavor of “Struttin With Some Barbecue”; the big band era “Sultry Serenade”; to the 60’s and 70’s style “Nostalgic Impressions”; the music paints a fresh fresco of the various colors of jazz. As a representation of music that is timeless in its appeal; the concert music speaks for itself as a testament to the art-form: music that is still fresh and vibrant.

The concert’s first two selections feature Ellis in a trio setting with his youngest son, Jason on drums, and bassist for the occasion Roland Guerin. The quartet is formed when trombonist, and eldest son, Delfeayo joins on “Sultry Seranade”. Branford and Wynton comes literally to blows on the dynamic “Cain and Abel”, and the entire family comes together on “Swinging At The Haven” affirming that the family that swings together, stays together.

Though the concert bring to light the collective talent of the family, there are special individual moments such as Jason’s outstanding drum solo on “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top”, and Branford and Wynton’s burning solo sparring on “Cain and Abel”. Ellis shares a dynamic piano duet with his one time jazz student, Harry Connick Jr on “Caravan”, while Delfeayo croons a mean ‘bone on “Sultry Serenade”. It’s all bonded together by Ellis’ cool hand. Other highlights include Harry Connick accompanied by ‘Orleans authentic trombonist Lucien Barbarin on the classic “Saint James Infirmary”.



The DVD features exclusive interviews with each family about the family and concert. Insights tell how each son was introduced to his instrument, and how the family dynamic was as extraordinary, yet ordinary as any other family. The talent of the Marsalis family is profound, but the work ethic of the family was intense and is really what separates them from others. Ellis reveals that he never wanted a family band, and later explains why he is proud of sons. They made it work by performing, and doing it their way. Their success is in great part due to the passion, professionalism, and fortitude; he was able to embody as a working jazz musician. The results of his efforts have visually come to fruition, and “The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration” is a testament to a true family of jazz musicians.

DVD Features:
Recorded on August 4, 2001

Songs: The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, After, Sultry Serenade, Cain and Abel, Caravan (with Harry Connick Jr.), Saint James Infirmary (with Harry Connick Jr. and Lucien Barbarin), Limehouse Blues, Swinging at the Haven, Nostalgic Impressions, Struttin' with Some Barbecue, Twelve's It, The Party's Over

Interviews with the family

Full-screen format

Web Sites
Rounder Music
Marsalis Music

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