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It was a match made in heaven: Hartman's beautiful baritone voice and Coltrane's exploratory yet empathetic tenor sax. This 1963 Impulse LP is a career highlight for both these jazz giants!
It was a match made in heaven: Hartman's beautiful baritone voice and Coltrane's exploratory yet empathetic tenor sax. This 1963 Impulse LP is a career highlight for both these jazz giants!


Format: CD
Label: GRP
Catalog: 157
Rel. Date: 06/27/1995
UPC: 011105015721

John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman
Artist: John Coltrane
Format: CD
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It was a match made in heaven: Hartman's beautiful baritone voice and Coltrane's exploratory yet empathetic tenor sax. This 1963 Impulse LP is a career highlight for both these jazz giants!


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is a 1963 studio album featuring John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.

Though Coltrane and Hartman had known each other since their days playing with Dizzy Gillespie's band in the late 1940s (Hartman had been with the band on an on and off basis, and Coltrane played (third) alto with the band in 1949), Hartman is the only vocalist with whom the great saxophonist would record as a leader. Initially when producer Bob Thiele approached Hartman with Coltrane's request that the two record together Hartman was hesitant as he did not consider himself a jazz singer and did not think he and Coltrane would complement one another musically. However, Thiele encouraged Hartman to go see Coltrane perform at Birdland in New York to see if something could be worked out. Hartman did so, and after the club closed he, Coltrane, and Coltrane's pianist McCoy Tyner, went over some songs together. On March 7, 1963 Coltrane and Hartman had decided on 10 songs for the record album, but en route to the studio they heard Nat King Cole on the radio performing "Lush Life", and Hartman immediately decided that song had to be included in their album. The legendary compilation was made that same day at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Each song was done in only one take, except for "You Are Too Beautiful", which required two takes because Elvin Jones dropped one of his drumsticks during the first take.

The album became an instant jazz classic, and the renditions of "Lush Life", "My One and Only Love", and "They Say It's Wonderful" are considered definitive.

Hartman's "master" Billy Eckstine stood godfather to this production which was directed by Bob Thiele.

Kurt Elling's 2009 album ''Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman'' was recorded in tribute to ''John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman''

Myth Busting John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

The album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, released by Impulse! in 1963, is considered today one of the finest examples of small-combo jazz with a solo vocalist. The original recording, having been reissued several times, has inspired tribute albums and concerts from vocalists such as Kurt Elling and Kevin Mahogany, and is consistently placed on top-ten lists of all-time jazz favorites. Although Coltrane’s career is well documented, he had little to say about this project and did not live long enough to reflect on its legacy. As for Hartman, there is nothing of substantial length written about him and in the few interviews given regarding this album, his answers occasionally contradicted the facts. Comments by the album’s producer, Bob Thiele, have also added to the confusion. A truly great jazz album shrouded by rumors and factual inconsistencies has lead to the rise of several myths over the decades and they deserve clarification.

Myth #1: Coltrane and Hartman were old friends

Comments from Thiele in his autobiography, ''What A Wonderful World'', have contributed to the myth the two artists were friends years before making their album. He refers to Hartman as Coltrane’s “old comrade” and “long-time chum.” The reality is the two of them never played together until about a week before the March 7, 1963 recording session and it is likely this was the first time they met. Because they both worked in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in the late 1940s there is recurring speculation they knew each other from that time on. However, according to an October 7, 1949 article in ''Down Beat'', Hartman was “dropped” from the band several months before Coltrane joined. In 1950 both the Gillespie big band with Coltrane and the now solo Hartman shared the bill at the Apollo Theater in New York. Although they certainly would have had the opportunity to hear each other at this gig, Hartman insists they did not meet and Coltrane never said anything to contradict this belief.

Myth #2: Coltrane was coerced into recording the album

To the modern-day jazz fan, the collaboration of these two artists has taken on a pre-destined quality. The pairing of Hartman’s silky, baritone voice and Coltrane’s masculine saxophone timbre seems so obvious, how could anyone have not seen the potential? Yet, at the time of the album’s release it was a very unusual choice and startled critics. A review in the February 1964 issue of ''Gramophone'' stated, “The idea of the John Coltrane Quartet accompanying a singer seemed at first too bemusing for words…” The article concluded with, “This is, I repeat, an odd record, appealing more perhaps to admirers of Johnny Hartman than Coltrane aficionados…” Coltrane was riding the crest of his “new wave” popularity while Hartman had been without a record deal after sales of his first three solo albums languished. Since the choice of Hartman was, in 1963, at the very least peculiar, and Coltrane had not felt inclined to record with a vocalist to that point, some have speculated about who was the driving force behind the album. At Thiele’s suggestion, Coltrane had already recorded two ballad-filled albums (''Ballads'' and ''Duke Ellington and John Coltrane'') so for "aficionados" it was tempting to assume outside forces had manipulated Coltrane into recording a hardly necessary third album of standard ballads, and this time with a singer of declining reputation.

If Hartman were already under contract with Impulse! it could be argued that the label stood to gain from the pairing due to likely sales increases of his solo albums already in their catalog but this is not the case. Hartman did go on to record two more albums at Impulse! and two more for sister-label ABC-Paramount, but these contracts were offered after the success of ''John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman'', not before. The parent label, ABC, certainly tried to capitalize on the Coltrane/Hartman collaboration by signing the vocalist to a recording deal but the idea to bring him into the original project was not theirs.

So the finger of suspicion returns to the producer but, despite the temptation to accuse Thiele of peddling influence, Coltrane was in fact very much in favor of recording another album of ballads and specifically sought out Hartman. In an interview with Frank Kofsky, Coltrane said, “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.” Furthermore, Coltrane’s record deal with Impulse! allowed him complete artistic control over what he recorded so, regardless of Thiele’s supposed suggestions, the ultimate choice to make the album was Coltrane’s.

Myth #3: The choice of material was collaborative

While touring Japan with Art Blakey in January 1963, Hartman received a message from Thiele that, upon his return to the US, Coltrane wanted to meet and discuss making a record. Coltrane’s classic quartet (pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones) was booked for two weeks at a club in New York starting February 21 so around the first of March (the exact date is unknown but Hartman said that after their first meeting they recorded “a week later” and the session was on March 7) Hartman attended a performance. Initial misgivings about recording together were quickly laid to rest, as described in a 1978 interview when Hartman said, “John was working at Birdland, and he asked me to come down there, and after hearing him play ballads the way he did man, I said, 'Hey, beautiful.' So that's how we got together.” Hartman, Coltrane, and Tyner (Hartman named the piano player he rehearsed with that night as Cedar Walton but this seems unlikely. Walton hadn’t played with Coltrane since 1959 and, with the two-week Birdland gig well-covered in the press, it’s doubtful his presence and the absence of Tyner would have gone unreported) stayed after the club closed its doors to jam and discussion of material began that evening. Although Thiele didn’t recall exactly who chose which songs, he clearly thought it was a group effort when he said, “All three of us selected the lush ballads for the album…” In the days immediately following the Birdland meeting the producer and two musicians collaboratively agreed on ten songs for the session but when Hartman and Coltrane were on the way to Rudy Van Geldor’s recording studio in New Jersey for the March 7 session, a last-minute addition was made. Nat Cole’s version of “Lush Life” played on the car radio and, being taken with the Billy Strayhorn composition, the two added it to the song list. Of the now eleven potential songs, six eventually ended up on the album. Two of the songs had been previously recorded by members of the quintet. Coltrane recorded a version of “Lush Life” in January 1958. He and Tyner recorded a duet version of “They Say It’s Wonderful” in November 1962, and Hartman performed the same song as early as 1948 in his days with Dizzy. Referring to the group being comfortable enough with the material to not need sheet music during the session, Hartman said, “The whole thing was done in about three hours. No music, just talked it over.”

Myth #4: The album is all “one takes”

Hartman is the most likely cause of the myth that all songs on the album were recorded in one take. There are so few interviews with him that his quotes, even when questionable, often go unchecked and are repeated in album reviews and liner notes as fact. For example, Hartman was born in 1923 but as early as 1949 he shaved two years off his age for magazine articles and by the late 1970s his published age was a full eight years too generous. This has lead to several inaccurate biographical entries stating he was as young as seventeen in 1946 when he got his first professional job singing with Earl Hines (he was actually twenty-three). Referring to the songs recorded for ''John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman'' in a 1982 ''New York Times'' article, Hartman said, “We did everything in the album in one take except ‘You Are So Beautiful.’ We had to do two takes on that one because Elvin Jones dropped a drumstick on the first take.” Giving a conflicting version of events, Thiele said Hartman was so impressed by Coltrane’s opening solo on “My One and Only Love” that he missed his entrance and a second take of that song was required. Thiele did not make any reference to a dropped stick.

Taking only these first-person comments into account, at least two tracks required multiple takes, but a review of the Impulse! track sheets presented in ''The John Coltrane Reference'' by Chris DeVito et al. goes even further to dispute Hartman’s claim. “They Say It’s Wonderful” shows two full-length takes of 5:37 and 5:15. The take of “Lush Life” used to merge with Coltrane’s later inserts was 4:42 yet there are two additional full-length take of 5:19 and 5:28. “My One and Only Love” also shows two additional takes of 4:55 and 4:57; one more than suggested by Thiele. “Autumn Serenade” shows one additional take of 4:10 and “Dedicated to You” shows an additional take of 5:25. There are three full-length takes shown for “You Are Too Beautiful” so, even with the dropped drumstick, there appears to be at least one additional version. Although it is possible some of these takes were only considered rehearsals at the time, it is also plausible that Hartman, with a history of taking creative license, was recalling the session nineteen years later with a romanticized view worthy of the album’s then-known stature.

Myth #5: There is a missing recording

The most valid and ongoing criticism of ''John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman'' is, with only a little over thirty minutes of music, the album is simply too short. With eleven titles prepared for the recording session but only six on the album, a myth grown from wishful thinking of fans is that there are extra songs Impulse! is holding back for future release. A review of the Impulse! track sheets leaves no doubt only seven songs were recorded during the three-hour session. Coltrane returned at a later date to insert some solo riffs but the combo never met again with Hartman, leaving four of their selected songs unrecorded. The myth of additional tracks or alternate versions gained credibility when an early pressing of the album without Coltrane’s additions was released for a brief time. That album was quickly replaced by the complete version but some people, having heard both pressings and noticing more saxophone in places, assumed they were hearing entirely different takes rather than the same take with an added track.

But what of the mysterious, unreleased seventh track? It was Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” and the track sheet lists a single, complete take although it’s unclear what lyrics Hartman used on this traditionally instrumental song. Perhaps not complementing the mood of the six other tracks, “Afro Blue” was excluded from the album and under normal circumstances would be prime material for later release. However, according to Michael Cuscuna, producer of the 1995 CD reissue, the tape of this song has been lost, so although a seventh selection was indeed recorded, it will likely never be heard.


Coltrane fans have tended to cite ''John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman'' primarily as proof that the saxophonist was capable of playing a subdued, melody-influenced style when necessitated by the gig, but they were ultimately more satisfied when he returned to his aggressive explorations in ''Ascension'' and ''A Love Supreme''. The three ballad-rich albums of 1962-63 were viewed as a phase Coltrane necessarily passed through in order to placate critics by demonstrating well-rounded musicianship and give him a bit of a respite while overcoming some mouthpiece issues.

For Hartman however, this album represented a pivotal moment in his career and was the apex of his recorded catalog. He released several fine albums afterwards but never achieved wide-spread popularity during his lifetime. These six songs were his finest work and yet they limited his opportunities as he became labeled a jazz singer instead of the all-around vocalist he considered himself. He spent the remainder of his life faced with the dilemma of being too jazzy (by association with Coltrane) for the big hotel show-rooms but too pop oriented (he didn’t scat or dramatically deconstruct melodies) for the pure vocal-jazz fan. By the 1970s he was relegated to small lounges and independent record labels unable to give him national exposure. A habitual smoker (several of his album covers feature him holding a cigarette), Hartman died of lung cancer in 1983 at the age of sixty. He was probably more popular in Japan than America until Clint Eastwood included seven out-of-print Hartman recordings on the 1995 soundtracks to ''Bridges of Madison County''. With the renewed public interest in his deep-voiced, romantically charged ballads, all the music from Hartman’s solo albums and most of his earlier singles has been reissued. Since each reissue and associated album reviews invite perpetuation of dubious jazz mythology (i.e. “Coltrane and Hartman, being such old friends since their days with Dizzy were able to complete each song in only one take.”) the above research should provide assistance in setting the record straight. - Wikipedia

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