Friday, 15 February 2013

They Say It's Wonderful

In the 1962 Down Beat article "John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Answer the Jazz Critics," the two saxophone players stood trial for their unfashionable and newfangled abstract experimentalism and indulgent expressionism.  In retrospect, these charges of "out-there" stylings seem comically premature in light of Coltrane's later free jazz albums. Nevertheless, Coltrane had been excoriated by the preeminent jazz publication and Impulse! head honcho Bob Thiele took notice. 

While Thiele pleaded in favour of his artists' avant-gardism, being ever the diplomat, he also encouraged Coltrane to cut a series of more accessible ballad albums to balance his catalogue.  Theiel's creative direction thus engendered three intimate and lyrical sessions the very next year: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, Ballads and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, all of which are now considered canonical recordings.

Born in Chicago, Johnny Hartman spent a minimal amount of time on the American jazz circuit, lending his satin baritone voice to Dizzy Gillespie band, before disappearing to England where he enjoyed moderate success in the clubs and on radio and television.

When Hartman eventually returned stateside he had been all but forgotten.  

Then one day Thiele rung him up.  Coltrane had personally and unequivocally nominated Hartman to accompany him on a forthcoming vocal jazz record.  A sentimental, yet sincere, album of tin pan alley standard, which would arguably revive the careers of both men.

As Coltrane recalled, "Johnny Hartman - a man that I had stuck up in my mind somewhere…I liked his sound.  So I looked him up and did that album." Simple as that.

I have a particular affinity for John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman because my wife and I had the first dance at our wedding to its "Dedicated to You."

Happy Valentine's Day my love.

"They Say It's Wonderful"

"Dedicated to You"

"My One and Only Love"

"Lush Life"

"You Are Too Beautiful"

"Autumn Serenade"

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