May 1998

Miki Coltrane

Vocalist Miki Coltrane is doubly-blessed—the DNA of two extraordinary musicians, John and Alice Coltrane—runs through her veins. Growing up in such a heady environment, it was preordained that Miki and her brother Ravi would one day enter the jazz life. Only seven years old when her father passed, she was unaffected by his legacy, opting for the discipline of the classical violin. After high school graduation, Miki put aside the rigidity of the classics for the creatively mercurial vocal spheres of her idols Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn. “Improvising wasn’t part of the classical tradition,” says Coltrane.

“Singing is more suitable to my tastes. The more educated I became musically, I thought about what those women exuded in performance style, how they were classy and had long careers. I loved their elegance of telling stories like it is without making a gimmick out of it.” Moving to Japan, she found success as a jingle singer and songwriter.

Relocating to L.A. at the beginning of the decade, Miki gradually built a reputation in the local jazz club scene (reaching a high point in ’96 performing with the McCoy Tyner Trio at Montreux). A hookup with L.A. pianist Scott Hiltzik in ’95 began a collaborative period that has culminated in I Think Of You, Coltrane’s solo debut on Chartmaker Records. Featuring Coltrane’s mood-shaping contralto, Hiltzik’s evocative songs and arrangements as well as stellar contributions from the likes of Ralph Moore and Robert Hurst, I Think Of You is four-square deep into the jazz tradition of her mentors. “We wanted to have blues with the big band thing, we wanted straightahead, we wanted mystery,” says Coltrane. The record also features a rare coupling of Miki, Ravi and Alice on a reworking of Trane’s “Lazybird.”

Of the experience, the vocalist says, “It’s always difficult when there are a lot of people relating to each other. In that moment, we were all in charge, playing for the sake of the writer. What would be a challenge for us would be to collaborate on something new.” Like her parents, Miki Coltrane is already on to the next level. “I’m engaged to a Cuban percussionist. We’re going to do some experimenting with some African and Cuban rhythms, we’re going to record something tonight.” Yeah, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?

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