Since most people who write Amazon reviews would give five stars to a CD of traffic noises (and what in hell is wrong with you people? Maybe Reviews should be renamed Adoration), it's nice to see a CD that's actually good get good ratings. These are all fine songs. Lush Life is good enough to make me enjoy the song again after hearing it sung so badly so many times. But I would have liked a bit more Coltrane and a bit less Hartman overall, and these songs are all very very mellow, one or two tracks more upbeat would have been appreciated. Worst, there are only six tracks adding up to less than 32 minutes, which is poor value indeed. I like this CD, but those who call it the best jazz CD ever made should take their heads out of their, uh, whatevers, and try to broaden their musical horizon.
Many jazzophiles opine that this is the best vocal jazz album ever made. I don't know that I'd necessarily agree; but I wouldn't argue vociferously for another alternative. And, I would agree that it's one of the most remarkable ones ever made. Normally, an album with nothing but slow, romantic ballads gets 4 stars from me, no matter what else. I make an exception here, for these reasons: First, I know that the three principal musicians--Mr. Coltrane, Mr. Hartman and Mr. Tyner--had humongous voices, and when they wanted to, could cause a volcano to begin erupting. But here, each trades off volume for musicianship. Every note is caressed and burnished with beauty. By each musician. Every note, I tell you. No voice breaks, no squeaks, no dissonant chords. Everything in this album is just gorgeous. Second, they did this in one day. Yes, Trane went in later and added some overdubbing; but the fact that Johnny Hartman could knock out what he knocked out in one day is just mind-boggling. Third, this album just now is getting its due. When you think of Trane, you think of more spectacular efforts ("Favorite Things", "Giant Steps", "Love Supreme" and "Ascension"); but his playing was never more beautiful and controlled than here. And when you think of a big-voiced bass-baritone who could take his instrument anywhere in his range without straining, pinching, or losing pitch, you think of Billy Eckstine or Earl Coleman. Here, Johnny Hartman was every bit their equal. This album should be in every wedding d.j.'s "Playlist" in the country. Though "You Are Too Beautiful" is my personal favorite, any one of the 6 would do. This is one of the very few albums I can remember that brought a tear to my eye, the very first time I heard it.
OK, what have you missed if you haven't heard this album? The first time I ever played this cd, my wife came in and started slow dancing with me. This is easily one of the most romantic cds ever recorded. John Coltrane is inspired beyond belief, not in a fiery Blue Train way, but in a I am touching the romantic muse where she lives kind of way. The supporting players all contribute so heavily> I am sitting here listening lush life, written by a 19 year old Billy Strayhorn(who at 19 knows more about love and loss than most men will know at their retirement). And the words are, "you are still burning inside my brain". This easily is the way I feel about the voice of Johnny Hartman. I could listen to this guy sing Barry Manilow. He has a voice that cuts through all sadness to create a sadness all its own. Your emotions disappear, and you are left adrift in the phenomenal voice of a master interpreter. I guess he found a resurgence because of "The Bridges of Madison County", but this stuff is beyond Iowa sentimentality. This, to me, is beyond hearts, flowers, lust, heartbreak, walks in a park at sunset, the seven wonders of the world. It is music that leaves you thinking,"Where has this been all my life". and the answer is "It's been here> Floating in the ehads of all of us who have ever walked on this planet, in love, heartbroken, or both. Check it out.
I've been sitting here reading fellow Amazon reviewers take on "John Coltrane and Johhny Hartman" and I've noticed a trend that I find discomforting....if not exactly true as well. But I'll soon get to that. First, I think a little background is needed to fully understand where this cd is at, musically speaking of course. When approached to do an "album" with a singer Cotrane's first, and I suspect only response, was Johnny Hartman. Hartman was close to being a complete unknown in a field where he so obviously excelled and Coltrane, while recording two albums of ballads previous to this record, "Ballads" and "Duke Ellington and John Coltrane" was still attempting to facillitate a style that reached the outer boundaries of the restrictive nature of popular song. That being the case they entered the studio and preceded to record a classic...in every sense of the word. Now,unlike other reviewer's comments about Coltrane being subjected to the role of "sideman" to Johnny Hartman's vocals this, I feel, simply misses the point of what this cd is about. Coltrane's tenor, I feel, is actually the "second voice" on this fine disc. The interaction between voice and musical instrument will always be debated as how to best draw a "focal point" where each can draw inspiration from the other and I feel that this is as close as I've ever heard to having those two seperate entities actually realizing that one precise point where vocals and intrumentation blend together in perfect unison . A perfect blending of two "instruments". Obviously a listener's attention will always turn toward the vocal aspect of any piece of music due to it's simply being recorded at the front end of any song. And being Johnny Hartman how could you not pay close attention! But, if you truly listen to when Coltrane enters each song, a prime example being " Lush Life", than you may have an idea as to what I am saying. Coltrane's saxophone isn't so much accompanying Hartman as much as "singing" with him. I suspect this is the closest thing we may have to an actual "duet" regarding voice and musical accompiantment. While it's true that Coltrane did go back into the studio at a later date to overdub some phrases for "My One And Only Love', "Lush Life" and "You Are Too Beautiful" basicallly what you have here is recorded "live". Which only enhances the sheer "magic" of this disc! And speaking of accompiantment isn't it time to give credit to McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Without these fine musicians I suspec this cd would surely lose some of it's lustre! A truly first rate quartet that is second only to Mile's work on "Kinda Blue". So, in the end, purchase your own copy of "Coltrane/Hartman" and hear what all the fuss is about. Whether you agree with my observations or not this cd is simply too good to pass up. Simple, beautiful and terribly romantic! Actually, forget all this superficial analyzing and enjoy the disc for what it is....Simply Wonderful!