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The Sublime Sophistication Of John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman

Sharing centre-stage with each other, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman made a lush, poignant album that remains a high point in both artists’ careers.

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John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman

On 7 March 1963, John Coltrane made one of his most lush and poignant albums, it was one on which he shared centre stage, not with another instrumentalist but unusually with a singer. The singer was 40 year old Johnny Hartman whose debut recording was Songs from the Heart, recorded with a quintet for Bethlehem Records released in 1955. When they arrived at the studio they had no charts, no prior arrangements worked out, this recording of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman was without a net, but then again all the musicians knew these songs by heart.

The record the two of them made together was released on the impulse! label later in the year and it stands as one of the finest records by Coltrane, a record of lyrical beauty that is simply one of the greatest albums in the jazz canon. Johnny Hartman’s baritone voice blends perfectly with Coltrane’s tenor sax that is the vocal extension of the saxophonist’s earlier Ballad’s album. ‘Lush Life’, was a last minute addition to the album, after they heard Nat King Cole’s version on the way to the studio. It’s a song that says everything about this pairing.

Listen to John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman right now.

Joining Coltrane and Hartman at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey that day are, pianist, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison on bass and drummer, Elvin Jones. From the opening bars of ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’ that features Tyner tripping over the black and whites you know that this is a special record. When Hartman sings it’s confirmed. But it’s the sheer poetry of Coltrane’s tenor saxophone that joins Hartman in what is more akin to a duet than an accompaniment that lifts this from outstanding to beyond compare. A little over two minutes into the opening number Coltrane fires off a solo of sheer perfection.

All of the songs, as you would expect, are covers and besides the two numbers already mentioned there’s ‘Dedicated To You’, ‘My One and Only Love’ – one of the other standout numbers – ‘You Are too Beautiful’ and ‘Autumn Serenade’. According to Hartman the album’s songs were all done in one take, with the exception of ‘You Are Too Beautiful’ that required as second run through after Elvin Jones dropped one of his brushes. Fact is there are alternate takes for every track.

Given the brilliance of this record, it’s surprising to learn that Hartman was not initially very enamoured with the idea. When producer Bob Thiele approached him suggesting the record, a suggestion that came from Coltrane, the singer was hesitant. Hartman did not consider himself a jazz singer and did not think he and Coltrane would complement one another musically. Hartman went to see Coltrane perform at Birdland and after his show the two of them, along with Tyner went over a few numbers and it just clicked.

It’s 31 minutes of sublime and sophisticated jazz that everyone should hear, and better yet, own.

John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman can be bought here.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Joyce Dade

    March 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane are two of my heroes and benefactors. My creative work is dedicated to them both, and this recording in particular reached a level of the sublime that may not matched anywhere else in Jazz music or anywhere else. Brokenhearted love songs and confessions of an all to human but supreme love, reach a pinnacle of beauty and grace in these recordings. If only everyone I love could hear these songs. If only everyone I love could know these musicians intimately, in my opinion, their worlds would expand to the level of the sublime. I am extremely grateful to you for presenting this to us today. Finally, history I can love and appreciate, a history of great beauty and devotion. Thank you so much. http://www.zazzle.com/joyce_dade_art*

  2. Roberto Perez

    March 8, 2015 at 3:19 am

    This is the best ever voice, horn ballads by geniuses in their prime, and the kind of music to accomadate some cheese & wine with your baby.

  3. kevin coleman

    May 14, 2015 at 1:02 am

    When I first heard this I thought it was my father singing(the late great Earl Coleman) only to come to find out it was Johnny Hartman, but when I read the linear notes my father was mentioned as these guys sound very familiar.

  4. rosy

    June 1, 2015 at 6:26 am

    From the day I bought this for the next ten years it was on frquent rotation. Then is wasnt as frequent but it never slipped away. Not too many albums I played as many times as this. Strong love always.

  5. Frank Caccam

    June 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    A friend introduced me to this album. From the moment he put it on, he has it on vinyl, I couldn’t hear anything but the sublime voice and music coming from the speakers. Needless to say I went out and found, after a lot of searching, a new pressing on vinyl.

  6. Warren Senders

    March 7, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Sure wish I could hear some of those alternate takes.

  7. Paul Douglas

    March 10, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Amazing to hear these songs were done in one take paticularly because aside from the obvious brilliance of Hartman’s voice and Trane’s sax, the thing that strikes me most about this album are the unexpected notes each choose.

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