Ellis Marsalis with Jason Marsalis
For All We Know
“See, there was really no modern jazz in New Orleans. There were individual players who had come into the music the same way I did: listening to the recordings and having their ears challenged by what they heard on the recording. There was a record shop on Rampart Street, I forget the name of it, we used to just call it the Bop Shop, and the lady who worked there would call a series of us about once a month and say, “We got some new stuff here.” And we would go down and listen and get the 78 records coming out of New York, then go home and learn what we could from listening, go to jam sessions and work it out.
So the direct contact was usually the 78 records that was being recorded by Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles, Dexter Gordon. Those guys. The music was fairly simple. It was lots of blues, some ballads maybe, and what they called rhythm changes. So when you would learn that, you would be in a position to increase the language of the music by working on it, by practicing it.
I had been playing more and more piano with Harold Batiste and a clarinetist Alvin Batiste, and a drummer named Edward Blackwell and an assortment of bass players. But we didn’t really have jobs in a sense of a jazz gig. We didn’t have that. We would sometimes play at each other’s house and work on some songs that were original, that we were writing. In a way, as musicians, it sort of reminded me of sandlot football. You do it because it’s communal. You and a bunch of guys get together and play. It wasn’t because you figured you was going to make a lot of money doing that. It was an all encompassing experience in terms of learning music from a practical standpoint, because you wasn’t going to get it in anybody’s school.”
- Ellis Marsalis, February 16, 2020
Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis joined Newvelle Records in the studio just a few weeks before his passing in March 2020. This album, his last recording, finds him returning to some of his earliest works. In addition to a few new pieces, Marsalis revisits works from the earliest days of the modern jazz movement in New Orleans. He remembers moments that impacted the trajectory of the genre—such as when Coltrane came to listen to Marsalis and James Black and was blown away by their use of mixed meter. Ellis is joined on several songs by his youngest son Jason Marsalis on the vibraphone, and on one track with special accompaniment by Jason’s daughter Marley Marsalis on percussion and piano.