For All We Know
“For All We Know”
As the patriarch of the Marsalis family, Ellis Marsalis had a tremendous impact on the direction of jazz during the past few decades. But the pianist’s influence radiated beyond the confines of his immediate kin, especially as an educator, with pupils including some of New Orleans’ finest jazz players — Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., and Nicholas Payton among them. As one of the few modern-jazz players in the Crescent City in the 1950s, Marsalis was at the hub of a small coterie — including drummer Ed Blackwell — who would gather at each other’s houses to work on songs. As his sons Wynton and Branford ascended in the jazz world, his contributions earned more recognition; he’d record with them, as well as with younger sons Delfeayo and Jason, and maintain a profile as a beloved performer and educator in New Orleans. In March of this year, Marsalis entered the studio to record For All We Know, an album for Newvelle’s New Orleans Collection series. Revisiting songbook favorites and some works that hark back to his modern-jazz heyday in New Orleans, Marsalis plays with deep feeling and unadorned majesty, whether he’s alone at the piano or accompanied by Jason on vibraphone (and Jason’s daughter, Marley, on percussion and additional piano on one tune). His solo read of the title song is particularly rich with emotion, a stunning expression from a man who certainly understood the standard’s meaning, i.e., that tomorrow’s not guaranteed to anyone. Marsalis would pass away weeks later, at age 85, a victim of the coronavirus.