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Don Was upped at Blue Note Records

Promoted to president from chief creative officer

Don Was has been promoted to president at EMI Music’s Blue Note Records. The Grammy-winning producer joined the venerable jazz and pop label as chief creative officer in August (Daily Variety, Aug. 10).

Elevation lifts Was into the ranks of top producers holding label reins; he joins an elite group that includes Verve Music Group chairman David Foster and Columbia Records co-president Rick Rubin.

Move was announced internally in January. EMI Music North America COO Colin Finkelstein and Capitol and Virgin label group prexy Dan McCarroll said in a joint memo to staffers that Was’ “commitment and passion for Blue Note and its artists – current and future – is inspiring, and as a result we have asked him to take full leadership of the label.”

Was will continue to report to McCarroll.

Ian Ralfini, previously Blue Note-Manhattan Records prexy, remains at the company as GM of EMI adult contemporary music, reporting to Finkelstein and focusing on the label’s global music rights deals for adult music. Manhattan is currently enjoying success with its act Celtic Woman, whose new album “Believe” entered the U.S. album chart at No. 13 this week.

Concurrently, former EMI Group senior vp of strategy and research Hank Forsyth moves to the newly created position of senior vp-GM for Blue Note, charged with managing day-to-day operations of the label.

Was (né Don Fagenson) received a Grammy as producer of the year in 1995. He helmed Bonnie Raitt’s multiple Grammy winner “Nick of Time” (1989) and has served as the Rolling Stones’ producer since “Voodoo Lounge” (1994). He co-founded the Detroit group Was (Not Was) with David Weiss (aka David Was) in 1979.

It remains to be seen if Was will continue to do outside projects with his promotion at Blue Note. He is currently wrapping production on a new album by singer-guitarist John Mayer, who is signed to Columbia.

Blue Note’s next major release is a new album by Grammy-winninng singer-songwriter Norah Jones, “Little Broken Hearts.” The Danger Mouse-produced set will arrive this spring. Label’s pop roster includes Jones’ country side project the Little Willies, Amos Lee, Priscilla Ahn and Jeff Bridges.

The label – founded as a jazz imprint in 1939 by Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion – remains active on the jazz front, and will release hip-hop-friendly keyboardist Robert Glasper’s “Black Radio” on Feb. 28.

According to one source, Was is contemplating renewed expansion of Blue Note’s jazz roster, and could re-sign saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpeter-screen composer Terence Blanchard to the label.

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