"There’s nothing you can do with a good song but sing it."- Johnny Hartman
Crooner Johnny Hartman (1923-83) had one of the great voices of the 20th century and, unfortunately, seems headed toward obscurity. Why? Because middle-agers seem to want to hear the standards "reinterpreted" by Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox, and Barry Manilow. First off, that was already done better by Linda Ronstadt in the '80s, and second, why wouldn't you want to go back and hear the Great American Songbook done by artists that made it great in the first place? Okay, I'll stop ranting now and get back to this 2 disc compilation.
Hartman's rich baritone plays perfectly off both lush big bands and smaller jazz combos. The compilation perfectly balances songs you know with songs you've never heard before. The compilation makes available several of Hartman's single-only releases from his many record companies. Great liner notes (appropriately titled "An Appreciation") by Will Friedwald.
Hartman moves effortlessly from pop ballads to jazz pieces. Articulation perfect, phrasing immaculate, spot-on intonation, and so on... Hartman was mainly a romantic balladeer, so he rarely opens up and swings like Sinatra, but he doesn't need to. This is nighttime music for you and a select other.
Clint Eastwood chose several of Hartman's recordings for the dreamy romantic scenes in his film The Bridges of Madison County which may have boosted Hartman's musical profile and catalog, albeit 12 years after his death. In 1984, New York City named a plaza for Hartman in Upper Manhattan.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Tracks: Disc one contains 21 tracks, covering the years 1947-1959. My top picks on this disc include I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart, I Should Care (with Dizzy Gillespie), September In The Rain (with Errol Garner), Black Shadows, The End Of A Love Affair, Bye Baby Bye, and I Thought About You.
Disc two contains 17 tracks spanning 1963-1972. The best cut of the whole collection are My One And Only Love and Lush Life, both with John Coltrane. Other good stuff on the second disc includes In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, Almost Like Being In Love, and Unforgettable.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: One summer night at the beach around the year 2000, I was introduced to the beauty of the 1963 album John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman. I immediately became a Hartman fan and haven't looked back. If you're looking for a starting point for Hartman, that Coltrane album is recommended.