On Friday Nights at Snug Harbor, a tiny jazz club in Nola a elderly gentleman shuffles in at 10 p.m. sharp with his band, sometimes a trio, sometimes a quartet to play exactly an hour and a half of wonderful classic jazz. The man in question? The patriarch of the whole musical Marsalis family— Ellis. On Friday last I finally got there to see him, and what an incredible treat it was. I got to sit right on the front row, and ended up being the roadie for the show because Ellis’ son Jason kept dropping his sticks for the vibes he was playing, and I handed them back. At the right you see a picture of Ellis these days, still a force of nature on piano with his large hands and beautiful chording. On this night we got some Duke Ellington, some originals (I especially loved ‘Homecoming’), some pop standards given a jazz turn— ‘If’ by David Gates. Ellis told the story of walking into a jazz club in NY and there was ‘Norton’ playing this tune on the piano— that’s right, Art Carney. I was very impressed with the young drummer and older bass player in the quartet, but the star of this show, besides Ellis, was Jason Marsalis the youngest of the clan who is a very talented drummer and producer. But on this night he played vibes to good effect, spicing it up with samples from composers as diverse as Michael Jackson and Stravinsky. These cats know music— pop, classical, jazz, funk, soul, r+b, you name it— they jazz it up. I just loved it— one of the best jazz concerts I have ever attended.
If you would like to sample Ellis and Jason ouevre, a great place to start is with the CD seen below, which I got the Marsalis’ to sign for me. I got to chat with them for a bit and told them I was from the home of John Coltrane— High Point N.C. That sparked some interest. I will not soon forget this night— it was a huge blessing. Thanks to Bob Stewart who made it all happen.