From a young age, it was clear that Jason Marsalis had what it took to be great. He is the son of pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis and his wife Dolores, and the youngest sibling of Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo.
By age six, Marsalis had his first real drum set and was taking lessons from 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.
In 1991, he auditioned and was accepted to the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts High School (NOCCA). Shortly after graduation from NOCCA in 1995, Marsalis started playing with Marcus Roberts. Marsalis also attended Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as studied composition with Roger Dickerson. While Marsalis made appearances with such international jazz luminaries as Joe Henderson and Lionel Hampton, he was visible on the New Orleans scene working with a diverse cross section of bands from Casa Samba, Neslort, Summer Stage, Dr. Michael White and many others. In 1998, he co-founded Los Hombres Calientes. While recording two albums with the group, Marsalis also produced two albums under his own name, Year of the Drummer and Music in Motion.
In 2000, Marsalis left the Los Hombres group to focus on the Marcus Roberts trio. Marsalis also recorded on the vibes with Tim Laughlin and Shannon Powell. In 2007, he recorded with John Ellis and Double-Wide on an album entitled Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow, and recorded and produced an album of Thelonious Monk with his father entitled An Open Letter to Thelonious. In 2008, Marsalis was asked to play the vibraphone with Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Double-Wide, and Snarky Puppy. In 2009, Marsalis would release his first new album in 9 years and his debut album on vibes, Music Update.
In 2010, he participated in a recording session with Ed Littlefield and Reuel Lubag. They made two records, Christian’s West Coast Session and Ed’s Walking Between Worlds. That project inspired the group to be named the Native Jazz Quartet. Their first recording was NJQ Stories, recorded in 2012. Marsalis also released a collaboration album with the Marcus Roberts Trio and Bela Fleck, entitled Across the Imaginary Divide. Marsalis also managed to do a performance at the 2012 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans with Aretha Franklin.
2013 saw Marsalis release his next recording entitled In a World of Mallets. The album went to number 1 on the CMJ Radio Charts and also won a best Contemporary Jazz Album for Offbeat Magazine. There were even recordings from the drum kit as Marcus Roberts released three recordings that year. Two with Wynton Marsalis, Together Again - In the Studio and Together Again - Live in Concert, and the original trio suite, From Rags to Rhythm.
With each passing year Marsalis continues to grow and develop as both a composer and performer. With a fire in his heart and a passion for the music, his will to swing has never been more resolute. The maturity and the command he possesses over his music is clearly evident to those who have heard or seen him.