Marsalis Family First Group to Be Honored by NEA Jazz Masters

The family patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, accepted the award on behalf of the family and then performed with his sons.

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The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters fellowship has been, since 1982, the nation's highest honor bestowed on living jazz artists. Revered musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Abbey Lincoln, Hank Jones, James Moody, Dr. Billy Taylor, Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes, George Benson, Nancy Wilson, Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones have been honored. The award brings with it a $25,000 prize.

Last night, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in midtown Manhattan, the Marsalis family became the first ever to be given this honor as a group. The patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, is a marvelous pianist and one of the most respected educators in New Orleans. He and his wife, Dolores, raised six boys, four of whom followed in his footsteps as professional musicians: Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone and producer) and Jason (drummer).

After Ellis accepted the award on behalf of the family, his sons joined him onstage to play Jason's "At the House, In Da Pocket," a tune featuring a New Orleans backbeat groove. Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo traded spirited lines,