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John Coltrane Celebrated In Iconic Images In ‘The Francis Wolff Collection’

This new series of limited-edition fine art photography collector’s pieces celebrates the legacy of Blue Note’s co-founder and the musicians he loved.

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'The Francis Wolff Collection' - artwork courtesy of Blue Note Records

Blue Note Records is launching The Francis Wolff Collection, a new series of limited-edition fine art photography collector’s pieces that celebrates the legacy of Blue Note co-founder and photographer Francis Wolff as well as the musicians he loved.

The series begins today with a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces featuring Wolff’s iconic photographs of the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane at the 1957 recording session for his masterpiece Blue Train. Items available in the inaugural drop were all produced from new highest-quality digital captures that reveal these images in stunning detail including a High-Definition Cradled Metal Print with Custom Acrylic Embossment, the Blue Train Framed Diptych, Archival Fine Art Prints in dynamic sizes, and a Lithograph Print Set that comes in a Blue Train album jacket.

Shop the best of John Coltrane’s discography on vinyl and more.

“Francis Wolff’s evocative photos have become the visual manifestation of the jazz milieu,” says Blue Note President Don Was. “We at Blue Note Records are thrilled to once again become the caretakers of this archive. This Blue Train collection launches our mission to make these photos available in the highest quality to fans and collectors.”

Francis Wolff was a commercial photographer in his native Berlin before he escaped on the last boat out of Nazi-controlled Germany bound for America in late 1939. Arriving in New York City, he joined his childhood friend and fellow jazz enthusiast Alfred Lion who had just founded a small independent jazz label called Blue Note Records. Soon, Wolff was bringing his camera to recording sessions and jazz clubs where he’d capture intimate portraits of the musicians at work, and over the next three decades he steadily built one of the greatest collections of jazz photography of all-time.

Over his career Wolff photographed a true Who’s Who of Jazz history capturing iconic images of legends including Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and many more. His remarkable photographs were featured in countless Blue Note album cover designs by the visionary graphic designer Reid Miles who used Wolff’s images to striking effect, creating what we think of as the art of Blue Note.

In recent decades, thanks to the tireless dedication of the collection’s longtime caretaker Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic Images, Wolff’s photographs have begun to be recognized as works of art themselves. With the collection now owned once again by Blue Note Records, the label is working to preserve and reveal even more of this remarkable archive which includes more than 20,000 black & white and color images taken between 1940-1970. A new digitization of the entire collection using a 150MP overhead camera capture system shooting in a raw format at the highest possible resolution has ensured the preservation of these images as they’ve never been seen before.

On September 15, 1957, John Coltrane went into Rudy Van Gelder’s living room studio in Hackensack, New Jersey and recorded his first great masterpiece: Blue Train. The fulfillment of a handshake deal Coltrane made with Alfred Lion, it would be the legendary saxophonist’s sole session as a leader for Blue Note Records, a locomotive album fueled by the bluesy title track that featured a dynamic sextet with Lee Morgan on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Blue Train established Coltrane as a force of nature and set him on a course towards becoming one of the most revered and influential jazz artists of all-time.

In 2022, Blue Train was released in two special editions as part of the acclaimed Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series: a 1-LP mono pressing of the original album presented in a deluxe gatefold tip-on jacket and the 2-LP stereo collection Blue Train: The Complete Masters including a second disc of alternate and incomplete takes and a booklet featuring Wolff’s session photos and an essay by Coltrane expert Ashley Kahn. Both Tone Poet Vinyl Editions were produced by Joe Harley, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original analog master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl at RTI.

Buy The Francis Wolff Collection.

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