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Jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis dead at 85

Ellis Marsalis, a gifted pianist, was the father of four jazz stalwarts, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

Image: obit, Ellis Marsalis
Ellis Marsalis performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans on April 28, 2019.Sophia Germer / AP file

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Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, educator and father of four noted musicians, died in New Orleans. He was 85.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called the musician an icon in announcing his death. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music confirmed his death to NBC News affiliate WDSU.

The statements did not detail the cause of death.

Marsalis' sons include trumpeter Wynton, saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason.

WDSU described him as the patriarch of jazz music's "First Family."

He was a pianist and educator who performed on television in Los Angeles weekly after serving in the Marine Corps in the 1950s. He returned to New Orleans to spread the gospel of jazz at the Southern Repertory Theater, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and a local venue, Snug Harbor.

In January he retired from performing.

Associated Press contributed.

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