Homecoming: Branford Marsalis to become artistic director at New Orleans center named for his father

NEW ORLEANS — Branford Marsalis, the jazz saxophonist and composer whose career includes movie scores, Grammy-winning recordings and a stint as the leader of The Tonight Show band, is taking on a new job in his hometown of New Orleans.

Marsalis was to be named Tuesday as the new artistic director for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. The center is named for Branford’s late father, patriarch of a family of accomplished New Orleans musicians that also includes trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Wynton and Branford Marsalis are brothers.

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music provides music and cultural education programs for young people and adults. It is part of the Musicians’ Village, a housing development built in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity.

Branford Marsalis and fellow New Orleans musician Harry Connick Jr. spearheaded its development to provide housing for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes after levee failures during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 led to catastrophic flooding.

The elder Marsalis died in 2022, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. A pianist who performed regularly in New Orleans and an educator at the University of New Orleans, he was the center’s artistic director when it opened in 2012.

In a statement released ahead of Tuesday’s official announcement, Branford Marsalis described his father as “a teacher in music and in life” and said he was honored to fill the role his father held.

“I hope to make my dad proud,” he said.

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