Grammy-winning trumpeter Wallace Roney and pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr have both died from COVID-19. Roney was 59 and Marsalis was 85.
Roney, a Philadelphia native who emerged in the ’80s and was hailed as an heir apparent to Miles Davis, died on Tuesday, March 31 in a New Jersey hospital. Marsalis—the patriarch of the Marsalis jazz clan—died the next day in New Orleans.
Roney was a contemporary of Ellis Marsalis Jr’s son, Wynton Marsalis, whom he replaced in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early ’80s. Roney broke through in 1985-1986 when he played on two records by Tony Williams, who had drummed for Miles Davis, and made his solo debut with the album Verses on Muse. At the age of 23 Roney met Davis, who would become a mentor to him. Roney stayed steadily active over the years; his latest release was 2019’s Blue Dawn – Blue Nights.
Marsalis rose to prominence as his sons Wynton and Branford Marsalis gained fame in the early ’80s, though he had recorded and collaborated with the likes of drummer Ed Blackwell as well as Cannonball and Nat Adderley in the decades prior. Marsalis was a long-serving educator and taught a number of jazz luminaries over the course of his life, including Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison Jr and Harry Connick Jr.
“My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father,” Branford Marsalis said in a statement, per the New York Times. “He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be.”
Roney and Marsalis are not the only musicians who have lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic. New York muso Mike Longo, Cameroonian icon Manu Dibango and Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger have all died of coronavirus complications in the past weeks.
RIP, Wallace Roney and Ellis Marsalis Jr. Revisit Roney’s 2000 album No Room For Argument here:
And listen to Marsalis’ 1992 record Heart of Gold below: