John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (reissue)
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
Impulse/ORG A-40 2 180g 45rpm LPs
Produced by: Bob Thiele
Engineered by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mixed by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mastered by: Bernie Grundman
Classic Collaboration Reaches New Sonic Heights
by Michael Fremer
September 01, 2010
If you didn’t know who was playing behind the honey-voiced Hartman on “They Say It’s Wonderful,” the opening track of this short, thirty one minute set, you’d probably never guess it was John Coltrane or that Coltrane asked Hartman to collaborate with him and his classic quartet on this mellow, relaxed and relaxing album, all of which was recorded April 7th, 1963.
Well, you’d probably figure out it was Coltrane when he finally solos, but for the most part he stays comfortably in the background and when he steps up to the mike, Hartman’s soothing vibe overtakes him, leading to sublimely graceful lines at the upper registers of his tenor.
It was Coltrane’s only lead turn recording with a vocalist. Hartman, more of a pop crooner than a jazz singer, was apparently hesitant to collaborate with Coltrane, though the two had briefly been in Dizzy Gillespie’s band during the late 1940’s. After seeing the quartet at Birdland, Hartman went for it and after hours at the club they chose and worked out all but one of the tunes.
Everyone lays back: McCoy Tyner’s lines are soft and flowing, Elvin Jones’s brushes softly caress the cymbals and Jimmy Garrison lays back too adding a subtle foundation. This is one hell of a lounge act—had it played one.
Only during the instrumental break on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” do the quartet’s familiar, muscular musical contours show themselves. It’s the set’s highlight, though there are no low points on this album that quickly became a best-seller (for a jazz album at the time) upon its release.
Rudy Van Gelder’s recording is sympathetic to the musical setting, with Hartman center stage, looming large and just kissed with reverb. Even Tyner’s piano sounds clean and well-textured, while Coltrane and Jones share a channel, with the tenor sax upfront and the drums pushed appropriately behind.
The ORG satiny paper over cardboard packaging is up to their usual high standards and this classic has never sounded better—and I compared it to my orange/black original.
Should you not wish to spend big bucks for the ORG and/or if getting up more times than you do during the night to pee just to hear this short album doesn’t appeal to you, consider the less costly Speakers Corner 33 1/3 reissue. It’s equally well pressed and mastered but from a tape copy and the drop to 33 1/3 takes a bit of a sonic toll particularly in terms of top end immediacy, but you’ll get to sit longer and left over cash to apply another worthwhile reissue.
That said, if you love this album, you won’t regret the extra expenditure or the four times up and down. Hell, if that really bothers you just get the CD and suffer in comfort!
Thanks to Michael over at http://www.musicangle.com/ for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.
Copyright © 2008 MusicAngle.com & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission