Ellis Marsalis Tribute

JC offers her deepest sympathy to the family of patriarch Ellis Marsalis along with her poem,”Like father, like son.” Written in 2003 after the Marsalis family played together at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the poem has been published elsewhere, most recently in VERSE AFIRE (The Ontario Poetry Society.)

May memories of Ellis, as was his life, be a blessing.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Ellis Marsalis caresses the keys, releases melody.
His sons trombone, sax, trumpet, drum
into the music, explore its geography,
improvise new routes to the source of sound.

They play together, yet play alone,
a composition so intimate it’s a surprise
when the jazz flows back to where it began.

What lingers is not only the music.
It’s Ellis. His voice soft,
he introduces each son
as though unwrapping a gift.

Did he know from the start how it would be,
sharing the same stage, each other’s rhythms
the joyful dissonance, harmonies?

He’d likely say luck had a hand in it, led
his boys past the usual rejection of a father’s
ways to choose such instruments
for the love of him, for the love of song.

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