Sunday, December 9
The Howard Theatre
Ellis Marsalis is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans. In 1964 Marsalis moved his wife and family of, at at time, four sons to the small rural Louisiana town of Breux Bridge where he became a school band and choral director at Carver high school for two years. Returning to New Orleans he began to freelance once again on the local music scene. He set his sights on bebop and formed a small combo with drummer Ed Blackwell, clarinetist Alvin Batiste, and saxophonist Battiste.
With its modern, almost avant-garde style, the group found little work in New Orleans, but it did get the attention of legendary alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Originally from Texas and steeped in that state's R&B style, Coleman found himself at odds with most of New Orleans' jazz scene. He quickly left The Big Easy for California. Once he arrived, he asked Ellis and the rest of the group to follow.
After the group arrived in California, they quickly realized that it was not exactly the Promised Land they had hoped to find. Even though their time out West was short-lived, they did manage to make their first recording in 1956 as The American Jazz Quintet. Ellis soon returned to New Orleans and continued playing modern bebop, despite the limited support from the city.