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Ellis Marsalis, jazz pianist, dead at 85 from COVID-19 complications

Jazz great Ellis Marsalis has died at the age of 85 due to complications from COVID-19. Photo by Skip Bolen/EPA 
Jazz great Ellis Marsalis has died at the age of 85 due to complications from COVID-19. Photo by Skip Bolen/EPA 

April 2 (UPI) -- Ellis Marsalis, a jazz pianist and patriarch of the Marsalis family, has died at the age of 85 due to complications from COVID-19.

Ellis Marsalis died on Wednesday, his son Branford Marsalis confirmed to the New York Times.

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New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell also confirmed Ellis Marsalis' death on Twitter.

"Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. The love and the prayers of all our people go out to his family, and to all of those whose lives he touched," Cantrell said.

Ellis Marsalis was an influential jazz figure who taught the likes of Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison Jr. and Nicholas Payton. He also helped launch the careers of his sons, Branford, Wynton, Delfayo and Jason Marsalis.

The Marsalis' are widely considered to be jazz's royal family. Wynton Marsalis is the founding artistic director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center and won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1997. Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis also have prominent careers with Branford Marsalis winning three Grammy awards.

Ellis Marsalis and his sons were named N.E.A. Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011, the highest honor for an American jazz musician.

Notable deaths of 2020

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