Forgoing materialism and commercialism to instead embrace life’s most genuine connections and lessons is a struggle that not everyone has the will power to do. But the late jazz pianist-educator, Ellis Marsalis Jr., did just that throughout his life, which is honored in the new documentary, ‘Ellis.’
The movie is set to premiere at DOC NYC on November 10. In honor of the film screening at the festival, ShockYa is debuting an exclusive clip from the feature, in which Marsalis’ sons, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, reminisce about how their father wasn’t materialistic throughout his life, especially when it came to cars.
‘Ellis,’ which was directed by Sascha Just, also includes interviews with the celebrated titular musician’s famous students. Along with Wynton and Branford, the legendary pianist also mentored such famed musicians as multiple Grammy winner Jon Batiste and Harry Connick Jr.
The documentary chronicles how Marsalis, who died at the age of 85 from pneumonia brought on by COVID-19 in April 2020, was a towering figure in the history of jazz. He composed and performed major works of modern jazz that were infused with a unique touch from his hometown of New Orleans.
The pianist, who lived through the Jim Crow era in New Orleans, defied the strictures of the rigidly segregated society through his music and his teaching. He also reframed jazz as a powerful tool in moving beyond racist oppression.
Marsalis continually defined his own standards of excellence and instilled in Black students a deep understanding of their own cultural history – a civil rights act in itself. He lived with a self-determination that offers a path to confronting racial injustice through art today.