The Children of Jazz Greats—The Next Generation: Ravi Coltrane, Jasper Armstrong Marsalis, and More

For decades in the 20th century, Jazz was the dominant form of music entertainment. Born from the blues and ragtime, the improvisational musical style took hold in a major way from the 1920s and continued on through the decades with artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and more.

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Since its heyday, jazz has experienced ups and downs in the second half of the century and into the 21st. While it remains a respected genre with radio stations and sections of music shops dedicated to its output, it’s not the driving force of popular music that it once was.

But there is a new generation taking over from the greats, sometimes in jazz music still and other times in other genres (as we will see below). Here, we wanted to dive into some of the important musical offspring of previous jazz greats.

Here are some of the most impactful children of jazz.

1. Vince Wilburn Jr. and Erin Davis

The nephew and son of the late great trumpeter Miles Davis, respectively, Vince Willburn Jr. and Erin Davis are working today to keep their famous relative’s legacy alive. In fact, American Songwriter caught up with both men in 2021, where they talked about Davis’ then-most recent (posthumous) release, Rubberband.

Speaking about Miles’ penchant for reinvention, Erin says, “Part of it came from his natural talent and his desire when he was young to learn how to play everything. But the other part, to be honest, is that he just could not see himself playing the same songs over and over again. When he took his music on the road, it would change and morph. He wanted to be able to have the freedom to push songs in different areas until it was done.”

Wilburn Jr., who drummed in Miles’ band and has produced several Miles Davis documentaries, says of his famous relative, “Uncle Miles didn’t speak to a lot of people. He wasn’t a social butterfly. But he sure did talk with his horn.” Today, the two continue in the music industry, as curators of Miles’ work and musical contributors, themselves.

2. Jasper Armstrong Marsalis

The son of jazz legend Winton Marsalis, Jasper Armstrong Marsalis is today an acclaimed music producer. While he may not have picked up the trumpet like his father, Jasper, who goes by the name Slauson Malone, is part of the music collective Standing on the Corner.

In 2014, musician Gio Escobar formed a band called Children of the Corner, a nod to the Harlem rap group Children of the Corn. Later, the name changed to Standing on the Corner. Escobar brought some demos from the band to Jasper, who helped to refine them. That music turned into the 2016 self-titled debut LP from the group.

Check out a conversation with Jasper below.

3. Ravi Coltrane

A jazz saxophonist (like his father John), Ravi is also the co-owner of the record label RKM Music. Ravi has helped produce artists like Luis Perdomo, David Gilmore, and Ralph Alessi. Born in 1965 on Long Island, New York, Ravi and his family (led by his mother Alice Coltrane) moved to L.A. There, he studied photography and film and played music, first clarinet but later in high school he switched to sax.

In 1982, his older brother John Coltrane Jr. died in a car accident at 17 years old, which had a profoundly sad effect on Ravi. In 1986, he studied music at the California Institute of the Arts. Today, he lives in Brooklyn and is the Chairman of The Coltrane Home, which helps to preserve the former home of John and Alice in Dix Hills, Long Island.

4. China Moses

Born in Los Angeles in 1978, China Moses is the daughter of jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater, who herself is a three-time Grammy Award-winner, and director Gilbert Moses. China released her first single, “Time,” in 1996 at 18 years old. She has released six albums as a band leader since, beginning with China in 1997, along with myriad other projects.

Check out her single, “Move Over,” below.

5. Lisa Simone

Born Lisa Celeste Stroud on September 12, 1962, the musician and actress, who is known for her work on and off Broadway in performances of Rent, The Lion King, and Les Miserables, Lisa is the only child of the late artist and activist Nina Simone. Her father is former police detective Andrew Stroud. Lisa is also the executive producer of the Netflix documentary on her mother, What Happened, Miss Simone.

To date, her albums include Simone on Simone, All is Well, My World, and Live at the Edge. A former member of the United States Air Force, Lisa has released five records and boasts many standout performances on stages in New York City.

6. Nas

The most famous name on this list, the legendary rapper Nas is the son of jazz trumpeter Olu Dara. Nas, who has earned Grammy Awards along with the recognition of being one of the greatest rappers alive, even featured his dad on a recent track, “Bridging the Gap.” Dara, who released albums ever since the 1970s, has also played on Nas’ breakout 1994 LP, Illmatic.

7. Art Porter Jr.

A saxophonist and son of the jazz musician Art Porter Sr., Porter Jr. traveled to Thailand to appear at the country’s international jazz festival. But afterward, while boating on the Kratha Trek reservoir in San Yok, the boat he was on sank and Porter Jr. died. In 1998, the compilation album For Art’s Sake was posthumously released in his honor.

Photo by Lionel FLUSIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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