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Jason is the son of pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis and his wife Dolores, and the youngest sibling of Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo. Together, the four brothers and their patriarch Ellis, comprise New Orleans venerable first family of jazz.
By age six, not only had Jason gotten his first real drum set, but he was also taking lessons from the legendary New Orleans drummer James Black. At age seven he was sitting in with his father’s jazz group, as well as playing with his trombonist brother Delfeayo. Jason was progressing so rapidly as a drummer that in 1984 his father started using him consistently on engagements. Jason was starting to become a seasoned road veteran before the age of nine, even traveling to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston for Delfeayo’s senior recital.
Shortly after graduation from NOCCA high school in 1995, Marsalis ascended to the drum throne of a new group lead by virtuoso pianist and former sideman for Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts. Despite a demanding touring schedule with Roberts, Marsalis furthered his educational goals by attending Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as studying composition with Roger Dickerson at Southern University.
The sense of style and tastefulness that Marsalis exhibits in his playing explains why is a highly sought after musician. This style has been well documented on recordings with artists such as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Marcus Printup and Marcus Roberts to name but a few. He has also produced two albums under his own name, Year of the Drummer (1998) and Music in Motion (2000), as well as producing a reissue of his father’s earlier recorded work, Syndrome (1996).