Jazz pioneer Ellis Marsalis Jr dies aged 85 after contracting coronavirus

Jazz pioneer Ellis Marsalis Jr has died at the age of 85 after being diagnosed with coronavirus, his son has said.

Marsalis Jr – described as a “legend” of the New Orleans jazz scene – was the patriarch of a well-known musical family.

His death on Wednesday came hours after Adam Schlesinger, best known for his work with rock band Fountains Of Wayne, died after contracting coronavirus.

Four of Marsalis Jr sons followed in footsteps to become musicians. Wynton is one of the most prominent jazz figures in the US as artistic director of jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Branford is a saxophonist who has worked with the likes of Sting. He told the New York Times the cause of his father’s death was complications of Covid-19.

Famous fans paid tribute online.

Singer John Legend tweeted: “Sending love to the Marsalis family. Condolences to them and all of those who loved Ellis Marsalis.”

The Wire star Wendell Pierce, who is from New Orleans, described Marsalis Jr as an “icon of our culture”.

He said: “With the deepest and most profound sadness, I grieve the passing of a true jazz master, icon of our culture, historic in the story of New Orleans, and profound in his influence in the evolution of music along with many lives.

“Father. Mentor. Teacher. Genius. RIP Ellis Marsalis.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook shared a picture of himself with Marsalis Jr.

He said: “Ellis Marsalis was a true legend. In his music, his passion for New Orleans and his steadfast dedication to education, he showed us all the power of community. He’ll be missed dearly. My thoughts are with his sons who carry on his legacy.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Marsalis Jr was a “legend” and the  “prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz”.

She added: “The love and the prayers of all of our people go out to his family, and to all of those whose lives he touched.”

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