Starting in the fall of 1993 Michael Cormier and I were on a songwriting streak. When Michelle (“Miki”) Coltrane and I met the following year we were looking for a singer to present our material and for someone who had the ability to express the emotional depth of the songs. I had heard Miki sing at a club and I liked the unique quality of her voice, which was a natural blend of jazz and R & B, yet with a lightness and openness. Miki was looking for original material, different from the familiar standards, to put out on a recording, so the timing was perfect.
By this point Michael and I had quite a large catalog of songs and it took a little while to hone in on what was most appropriate for Miki. Additionally we wrote new songs that we wanted to include, such as a bebop song called Found My Groove and a blues called Call It Blue. We wanted to include a deeper look at heartbreak, and have a song that possessed a vulnerability that we heard in Miki’s voice so we wrote Lessons. At the time Miki didn’t think it would be right, but when we ran the song for the first time and she got to the bridge, singing “I’d swore I’d love you till the end, though this wound may never mend. But I’ve got to face this fact: I’m better off if you don’t come back”. it affected her very deeply and after she composed herself, she laughed and said “Yes, we should do it”. Your Magic Eyes was the first song Michael and I wrote and we were happy that Miki loved it.
Michael’s lyrics tell stories, very much like what you’d find in musical theater. The Great American Songbook and many jazz standards draw upon songs from the great theater writers like Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, etc…, so the storytelling aspect of the songs we chose were in the tradition of what jazz singers perform. Most of the songs were about relationships, love and loss, so we all thought, I Think of You, the title of one the songs, would be a good album title.
Michael and I put together a showcase of our songs called Wails and Whispers: Songs of Hiltzik & Cormier at the Jazz Bakery in March of 1995. It also featured Miki Coltrane and Tierney Sutton, a wonderful singer who has gone on to a critically-acclaimed career and has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards. That performance was an opportunity for Miki to get more familiar with the songs we would record. The concert was a great success, with great reviews, an overflowing audience and standing ovations. We included the musicians who played for Wails and Whispers on the recording. The personnel on the CD was a combination of great players that we both knew and worked with and we were delighted they all contributed. The credits read: Miki Coltrane (vocals); Ronnie Laws (soprano saxophone); Gene Burkert (alto saxophone, flute); Ralph Moore, Ravi Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Clay Jenkins (trumpet); Bruce Otto (trombone); Christian Jacob, Scott Hiltzik (acoustic & electric pianos); Alice Coltrane (piano); George Stone (keyboards); Jim Hershman (guitar); Trey Henry (acoustic & fretless basses); Robert Hurst, Darek Oles (bass); Dave Tull, Ralph Penland (drums); Munyungo Jackson (percussion).
We included a wide variety of arrangement styles to enhance both Miki’s voice and the qualities of the songs.
We also included a special family recording of John Coltrane’s Lazybird, featuring Miki’s lyrics, mother Alice Coltrane on piano, and brother Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone.
In the time since I Think of You Miki has been raising her children. Last year she released another CD called Michelle Coltrane: Awakening. We are now working on some new music for a future recording.
I Think of You has it’s own niche. When it was released twenty years ago some of the feedback received was that it didn’t fit cleanly into the music industry boxes of the time. It may have been too accessible for straight ahead jazz radio stations and too subtle and sophisticated for others. Now there’s a whole separate genre of “genre-less” music. 2018 seems like a great time to digitally share this music. Enjoy!