Ravi Coltrane gets new deal with Blue Note Records

The Blue Note Records roster just got more interesting. Saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Ravi Coltrane has signed a recording contract with Blue Note Records. The label announced his signing in August.

Coltrane heads into the studio in December.

His Blue Note debut is slated for spring 2011.

Sure, Coltrane has gone to an iconic place, Blue Note Records. It has established that reputation, but is it still Blue Note — the same legendary label (offering the finest in jazz since 1939) where his father John Coltrane will be forever an icon for the landmark 1957 album Blue Train?

More importantly, should we still be awed by it? After all, it’s not his father’s company anymore.

The label has perhaps made bigger splashes by signing R&B and pop artists such as Al Green, Anita Baker, Van Morrison, and of course, Norah Jones than signing straight-ahead jazz artists that the company was best known for during its early golden days.

So, what does Coltrane’s signing say about the direction of Blue Note?

Time will reveal. However, it’s worth noting that in the past five years Blue Note’s jazz signings have included Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Aaron Parks, Ambrose Akinmusire and now Coltrane. Make no mistake: There’s no other major label with this level of commitment to the music right now.

Coltrane leads a brief U.S. tour as he prepares material for the new recording with his longtime quartet (Luis Perdomo on piano, Drew Gress on bass and drummer E.J. Strickland). Upcoming engagements include Yoshi’s in Oakland (Dec. 3-5), The Dakota in Minneapolis (Dec. 6-7) and the Jazz Showcase in Chicago (Dec. 9-12). His band is on its way to becoming one of the acclaimed working jazz groups to watch. For a complete tour schedule, visit www.ravicoltrane.com.

MSR readers may recall our interview with Coltrane back in 2008. He was unavailable for comment on this story at press time. Watch for a follow-up interview with Coltrane closer to his Dakota stint. Previously Coltrane recorded for the label as a member of the Blue Note 7, the all-star septet that released the album Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records and performed at Orchestra Hall as part of an extensive North American tour in honor of the label’s 70th anniversary in 2009.

As stated in the press release, at the age of 44, Coltrane arrives at Blue Note Records a powerfully mature artist with a richly diverse, yet highly distinctive concept as both a saxophonist and a composer. He has taken his time with his studio recording output, but now is the time for him to step up his game. Coltrane has recorded five albums as a leader: Moving Pictures (1998), From the Round Box (2000), Mad 6 (2002), In Flux (2005), and Blending Times (2009).

Coltrane was born in Long Island, New York in 1965. He is the second son of Alice and John Coltrane. He was named after the legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. When he was young, the family moved to Los Angeles, which is where Coltrane began to develop his own personal interest in the arts. Starting as a clarinetist and eventually switching to the saxophone in high school, Coltrane went on to attend Cal Arts where he studied with Charlie Haden.

In 1991, he impressed the late, great drummer Elvin Jones with his talent; Jones hired him to play in Jones’ band. Now, Coltrane has performed with a stellar list of artists including McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Carlos Santana, among others. Currently, Coltrane resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Kathleen and their two sons.

New music from Cassandra Wilson

Also, look out for the new Cassandra Wilson album on Blue Note Records. Silver Pony is set for release November 9 and features guests Ravi Coltrane and John Legend.

The multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz-pop songstress has a husky vibrato that makes her sound instantly recognizable. Devoted Wilson fans and those new to her can expect a hybrid live/studio album, which includes live recordings from a European tour and studio recordings that took place at New Orleans’ Piety Street Studios. The album also features a blend of jazz/pop classics, plus songs newly penned by Wilson and her band.

Silver Pony, produced by Cassandra Wilson and John Fischbach (owner of Piety Street Recording Studios), features Wilson on vocals and synthesizer, in addition to Coltrane and Legend, Marvin Sewell on electric guitar, Jonathan Batiste on piano, Reginald Veal on electric bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Lekan Babalola on percussion.

Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokesman-recorder.com.