Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts will present the Ellis Marsalis Quartet with jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis performing "A Very New Orleans Christmas" on Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. at the center, 1073 N. Benson Road.
The program includes material from Ellis Marsalis' latest album, "A New Orleans Christmas Carol," featuring jazz-tinged seasonal favorites such as "Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night," "What Child Is This," "Sleigh Ride" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Ellis Marsalis is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans and is known for his career as a performer and educator. Four of his sons -- Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason -- have gone on to successful jazz and classical-jazz careers.
Ellis Marsalis, 78, began his formal music studies at 11 at the Xavier University Junior School of Music.
After high school, he enrolled in Dillard University in New Orleans as a clarinet major. He graduated in 1955 with a bachelor of arts degree in music education before joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
While stationed in southern California, he played piano as a member of the Corps Four, a Marines jazz quartet that performed on television and radio shows used to boost recruiting efforts.
After completing his Marine Corps duty, he returned to New Orleans and married Dolores Ferdinand, a New Orleans native, who bore him six sons: Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya and Jason.
In 1964, Ellis Marsalis, his wife and, at the time, four sons, moved to the small rural town of Breaux Bridge, La., where he spent two years as a school band and choral director at Carver High School.
He returned to New Orleans in 1966, where he played at various clubs and taught as an adjunct professor of African-American music at Xavier University.
As the family continued to grow, Ellis Marsalis continued his educational pursuits, attending Loyola University's master's degree program in 1974. He taught as an instrumental music teacher with a jazz studies emphasis at the New Orleans Center for Creative Art from 1974 to 1986.
He then accepted a teaching position at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., serving as coordinator of jazz studies two of his three years there.
In 1989, he returned to New Orleans to become the first director of the Coca Cola-endowed Chair of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans.
Marsalis is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Dillard University; Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.; Virginia Commonwealth University; Tulane University in New Orleans and the Juilliard School in New York City. In 2011, Marsalis and his family were awarded the highest honor in jazz, NEA Jazz Masters, the first group award ever distributed by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Marsalis has appeared on NBC's "Today" show with host Bryant Gumbel; the "Tonight Show" with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno; the Arsenio Hall show, with pianist Marcus Roberts; the Charlie Rose show; "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and ABC's "Good Morning America" with Spencer Christian.
Concert audiences may show up at 7 p.m. before the performance to enjoy food and beverages provided by Brennan's Shebeen.