Ellis Marsalis At 80 As an influential educator and pianist, Marsalis is a father figure to more than his famous sons. Jazz Night In America visits him as he performs on a big birthday.

Ellis Marsalis At 80

Ellis Marsalis At 80

Ellis Marsalis celebrated his 80th birthday in performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

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Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Ellis Marsalis celebrated his 80th birthday in performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Ellis Marsalis has four famous musical sons — Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis — but considering his career, he's a father figure for many more musicians. In high school and college classrooms, he's been the major figure in New Orleans jazz education since the time that formal jazz education didn't exist. And as a pianist, he carved out a space for contemporary jazz in his hometown, and has grown into an elder statesman of the scene.

He turned 80 in November, and to celebrate, Jazz at Lincoln Center — where his son Wynton is managing and artistic director — hosted him and his band at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Jazz Night In America was in the house for Ellis Marsalis' birthday.