What Made Ellis Marsalis Put Away His Saxophone Forever?

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - He's one of New Orleans' finest piano players and unmatched as a music educator, so who would Ellis Marsalis like to play with?

Miles Davis.  And he actually got a chance to tell him that at one of their performances in New York.

"I was telling Miles, 'ya know I always wanted to play in your band,'" Marsalis recounts.  "And he said, 'you'd better be glad you didn't, everybody that's played with me is dead.'"

After graduating from Dillard University and playing mostly clarinet and saxophone in bands around town, Marsalis told us we have someone to thank for making him the man he is today.

His name is Nathaniel Perrilot.

"I was in a jam session at the Dew Drop one Sunday, and I heard a saxophone player by the name of Nathaniel Perrilot, and that ended my career as a saxophone player. I went home, put it in the case and never took it out again," Marsalis said.

Marsalis stayed out of the spotlight most of his life, focusing more on being an educator.  And that's worked out pretty well.  He's the father of today's jazz giants --  Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason -- also has influenced the careers of countless other musicians like,  Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton.

Today, Marsalis plays piano and teaches young people.  He said these days his piano playing has less to do with growing as it has to do with maintaining.