Writing in a Time of Peril: Wednesday, April, 1, 2020

March 31, 2020The US CDC reported 140,904 cases (18,251 new) and 2,405 deaths (293 new) on March 30. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 164,610 US cases and 3,170 deaths as of 7:45am on March 31. 

April 1, 2020

The US CDC reported 186,101 cases (22,562 new) and 3,603 deaths (743 new) on April 1.

Ellis Marsalis, Jazz Pianist and Music Family Patriarch, Dies at 85

Growing up in New Orleans, Ellis Marsalis was a junior high school music teacher who played jazz on Thursday nights at Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street. He was more working stiff. He didn’t tour as his talent and importance to jazz demanded. He was a devoted family man and a teacher.  Later he would become a master teacher at Xavier University, University of New Orleans and The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. University of New Orleans. He gained national and international fame and awards. For me, he always remained my best girlfriend’s junior high school music teacher who played at Snug Harbor on Thursday nights.

Once I was old enough, I spent as many Thursday, and later Friday nights, nights at Snug Harbor as I could. Jermaine Bazile and the Gentlemen of Jazz and Ellis Marsalis were my favorites. 

It was a date night. It was a solo night. It was bring your friends to a jazz set during Jazz Festival night. It was celebrate whatever night. His musician sons began to appear with their father at Snug Harbor when they were young teenagers.  

When I moved away from home, and returned for a visit, I never missed a night that Ellis Marsalis played at Snug Harbor. Like visiting my extended family and friends, I sat down at one of the small tables in the crowded room to hear Ellis Marsalis play jazz piano with his current tri or quartet or guests.

Ellis Marsalis was a no-drama man. He sat at the piano and played with his head down mostly. He directed the rest of his his trio or quartet with a look up or a nod or slight movement of his body or hand.

Ellis Marsalis’ music and his reliable and constant presence at Snug Harbor was a home place for me. His death leaves me homesick and heartbroken. 

By Giovanni Russonello and Michael Levenson

Published in NYT on April 1, 2020. Updated April 2, 2020, 1:05 p.m. ET

Ellis Marsalis, a pianist and educator who was the guiding force behind a late-20th-century resurgence in jazz while putting four musician sons on a path to prominent careers, died on Wednesday in New Orleans. He was 85. The cause was complications of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, his son Branford said in a statement. Mr. Marsalis spent decades as a working musician and teacher in New Orleans before his eldest sons, Wynton and Branford, gained national fame in the early 1980s embodying a fresh-faced revival of traditional jazz

Mr. Marsalis in performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2009. The mayor of New Orleans called him “the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz.” Credit…Associated Press

I continue to go down my to-do list of selfcare: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there a very few people about. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear and rage into expression, action and art. 

I put on Marsalis’, Fathers and Sons and A Night at Snug Harbor, (1995.) I listen. I remember. I grieve for myself, my home, for the Marsalis family. I repeat. 

Joann and I join Tuck and Patti for their weekly concert from their home on Facebook. They invite us into their home every Wednesday at noon Facebook. Don’t forget to contribute to the Tip Jar.

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA



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