Congratulations to the Marsalis Family for just being named NEA Jazz Masters by the National Council on the Arts which oversees the National Endowment for the Arts.
Connections to the family go back to 1979 when I was in the Ben Franklin High School band and became friends with Wynton, and then a year later when I was in the band for a couple years with Delfeayo (who used to let me listen to some of Wynton’s first recordings at their house before they came out and when Jason was about 3 years old). Wynton has recorded on a couple of our tracks with Irvin Mayfield. Delfeayo has produced a few records for us. Jason was signed to BSR and released 2 CDs as a leader plus a couple of CDs as a co-leader of Los Hombres Calientes. Branford has been a friend and has sat in on many gigs with Irvin, Los Hombres and Kermit Ruffins. And their patriarch, Ellis, has recorded several tracks with Irvin Mayfield, plus performed on Kermit Ruffins first CD (on Justice Records), and most recently recorded the CD Love Songs, Ballads and Standards for us with Irvin Mayfield.
Another interesting connection was in about 1989 when I was at lunch with Wynton Marsalis and an aspiring young trumpeter who was in high school visiting Wynton in New York for a few days. That trumpeter was Jeremy Davenport, who decided to move to New Orleans and study with Ellis Marsalis at UNO in the Jazz Studies program. Jeremy went on to several years in Harry Connick Jr. band, then his own band, and in 2009 was our most recent signing, releasing We’ll Dance ‘Til Dawn.
UPDATE: Watch the NEA Awards Ceremony and concert from JALC Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 at 7:30 ET (6:30 CT). More information HERE.