Thursday, June 9, 2016

JOHN COLTRANE & JOHNNY HARTMAN (1963)


A beautifully understated, albeit too-brief excursion for Trane, his album with vocalist Johnny Hartman is one of the gems of his career -- and that's saying something.

Comprising only six tracks, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman feels like a sampler for a meal we can never eat. Trane made no other albums with Hartman and no other vocal albums, leaving this wonderful little set on its own.

Based on standards Trane and Hartman had known previously, the record was knocked out in two sessions -- the second necessitated by a dropped drum stick.

Personal favourites from the set are 'Dedicated To You', 'My One and Only Love', 'Lush Life' (considered by many, including myself, as the definitive version) and 'Autumn Serenade'. There are no weak links here. Like Trane's arrangements and Hartman's vocals, there is no fat here. Every component forms a unity of restraint and economy.

If anyone is interested, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling released his own tribute album in memory of Trane and Hartman's collaboration. Entitled Dedicated To You, it is a terrific ad addendum featuring Ellings' own takes on the songs, with spoken word intros offering history and commentary on the album.

A beautiful snapshot of a time and style of music that no longer exist, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman punches far above its weight. Whether or not you like jazz, you cannot help but appreciate the simple, pure brilliance of the music these two men created.

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