Born in New Orleans in 1965 to Dolores Marsalis and esteemed jazz pianist and professor Ellis Marsalis, Delfeayo grew up alongside his five siblings, including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and his younger brother, drummer Jason Marsalis. Interested in music from a young age, he initially started out on bass and drums before settling on the trombone in sixth grade. As a teenager, he attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the Eastern Music Festival, and the Tanglewood Institute, during which time he studied classical music and jazz. After high school, he majored in both performance and audio production at the Berklee College of Music. Marsalis also holds a master's degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville and was conferred a doctorate by New England College.
As a performer, the trombonist gained valuable experience touring with such luminaries as Ray Charles, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. However, it was working as a producer that he initially distinguished himself, helming recordings by brothers Branford and Wynton, including Royal Garden Blues and Standard Time, Vol. 3: The Resolution of Romance, as well as Music from Mo' Better Blues, the soundtrack to Spike Lee's 1990 film. He also produced albums by Harry Connick, Jr., Donald Harrison, Marcus Roberts, and others.
As a solo performer, Marsalis debuted in 1992 with the biblically inspired Pontius Pilate's Decision. He then paired with saxophonist Mark Gross for the quintet date Musashi in 1997. He stayed busy over the next several years, splitting his time between playing live and producing. During this time, Marsalis appeared on a bevy of albums, with artists including his brothers Wynton and Branford, saxophonist David Sanchez, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and more. He also played on recordings with drummer Elvin Jones, Michael Ray the Cosmic Krewe, and Wycliffe Gordon, among others.
He returned to his solo work in 2006 with the Elvin Jones tribute album Minions Dominion. Sweet Thunder, a reworking of Duke Ellington's suite incorporating Shakespearean themes and characters, followed in 2010. Marsalis then paired with his father Ellis, for the urbane, standards-heavy The Last Southern Gentlemen in 2014. Two years later, he delivered the politically minded Make America Great Again! (in no way aligned with Donald Trump), which showcased the debut of his large ensemble the Uptown Jazz Orchestra. While on tour in support of the album, he recorded the live concert date Kalamazoo at the Dalton Center Recital Hall at Kalamazoo's Western Michigan University. Joining the trombonist were his father Ellis, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Ralph Peterson. In February 2020, he released Jazz Party, an exuberant production featuring his Uptown Jazz Orchestra. Also featured on the album were guest appearances by vocalist Tonya Boyd-Cannon, drummer Joe Dyson Jr., pianist Kyle Roussel, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band co-founder saxophonist Roger Lewis. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
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