The tenor is the John Coltrane’s saxophone and the baritone is the Johnny Hartman’s voice. An improbable meeting that took place in March 1963.
Improbable, because Coltrane was already a well known musician and had played with the biggest names in jazz, including Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington and never had accompanied a vocalist.
And even more improbable, because at that time, the singer was not a famous name. The result was the relaunch of Johnny Hartman career. This is a happy meeting. Is worth listening this crooner.
Given Coltrane is a familiar figure, I will not write much about him. Regarding Johnny Hartman, I can tell you that he had formation in voice and piano. In 1947, Earl Hines (who came to be considered the first modern jazz pianist) hearing his voice had much potential, hired him as a singer. In the following year was gone in a tour with Dizzy Gillespie, and later had a short time to working with Erroll Garner.
After worked with several orchestras, he recorded in 1955 on his own name the album “Songs From The Heart“. Despite having released a hand full of albums, his success was relative. Everything changed with the launch of the album “John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman“.
There was such a great sucess, that the Impulse Records opened the doors for him to record. In October 1963, go to the studio and recorded “I Just Dropped By To Say Hello“. In September 1964, recorded “The Voice That Is“. In February 1966, recorded “Unforgettable“.
And what makes us become totally amazed with him? “His voice, always a perfectly tuned instrument, is unobtrusive and relaxing, heavy in quality but almost with-out tremolo, whish makes Hartman unique among the big voiced boppers. His enunciation is impleccable (you’ll hear every word …), which makes him unique among all male singers. He respects the word, adapts his vocal embellishments to the value (in meaning and sound) of the word: which makes him unique among everybody“, citing A. B. Spellman from original liner note from the album.
Everything indicates that the encounter between them took place in 1950 at The Apollo Theater in New York City. Coltrane have claimed later: “I just felt something about him, I don’t know what it was. I like his sound, I thought there was something there I had to hear so I looked him up and did that album.“
The album “John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman” is entirely composed by ballads. Previously, late 1962, Coltrane had already recorded two albums with the same genre of music: “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane” and “Ballads“.
With Hartman, Coltrane will once again show his sophisticated lyricism and never let the power of his voice exceeds his guest’s voice. The dialogue between the two voices is respectful throughout the six themes that are included in the album. The thematic of the songs is the love or the absence of it.
Click song title to listen the music
In “They Say It’s Wonderful“, we have someone who does not know that falling in love can be wonderful: “I can’t recall who said it | I know I never read it | I only know they tell me that love is grand.”
But warns that … “You’ll leave your house one morning | And without any warning | You find yourself shouting that love is grand.”
In “Dedicated To You“, the singer considers that he should write a book, paint a picture, and look for a twinkling star to devote to its beloved, all because: “To you | Because your love is the beacon that lights up my way | To you | Because with you I know a lifetime could be just one heavenly day.”
In “My One And Only Love” (his version of this theme is considered the best ever), the world its changing because there is a unique woman that fill out your heart… “You fill my eager heart with | Such desire | Every kiss you give | Sets my soul on fire | I give myself in sweet surrender.”
In “Lush Life” (his version of this theme is considered the best ever), the nightlife only lets you see sad smiles, but love can be even more stifling and sad; so, is better to live a luxurious life: “Romance is mush, | Stifling those who strive. | I’ll live a lush life | In some small dive… | And there I’ll be, | While I rot with the rest | Of those whose lives are lonely, too …”
In “You Are Too Beautiful“, raises the eternal dilemma of beauty to be owned by someone: “You are too beautiful for one man alone | For one lucky fool to be with | When there are other men | With eyes of their own to see with.”
Finally we have “Autumn Serenade“, which as the name indicates is an ode to this beautiful season of nature: “Thru the trees comes autumn, with her serenade. | Melodies the sweetest music ever played. | Autumn kisses we knew, are beautiful souvenirs.”
More could be talking about this album, but I sincerely hope that this is the starting point for those who are unfamiliar with Johnny Hartman, to discover the other works by one of the most distinctive voices of the ’60s. Thanks Coltrane, for having given visibility to this voice.
Discover the FREE Special Report
JAZZ GOES TO MOVIES – TOP 30 Soundtracks (1955-75)
Powered by Qumana