A Return to Earth and Johnny Hartman

20 Nov

After having dropped off the face of the blogging earth, so to speak, I am feeling rather giddy to have returned. I’ve missed writing and reading about movies and books and hope everyone is doing well and having a lovely fall. It’s been a beautiful autumn where I live. How about your autumn?

I’ve actually stacked up a lot of different things I would like to write about: Japanese cinema, Jo Stafford, a new book about jazz and pop singers that is dangerously addictive to read, a few movie reviews of film noirs, some observations about American hard-boiled writing. But perhaps the best place to begin is with Johnny Hartman.

Johnny Hartman never achieved the success he deserved during his own lifetime and even now is not as well known as he should be. He has a meltingly lovely voice. When the word mellifluous was created, surely that person had Johnny Hartman in mind.

He was primarily a singer of ballads, which was part of his difficulty, because he was singing ballads at a time when rock and roll had stormed in. Perhaps if he had been singing a decade earlier, he would have been better known.

He inadvertently became known as a jazz singer when he collaborated with John Coltrane on their brilliant album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, though he was also a pop singer. Will Friedwald, in the dangerously addictive book I mentioned called A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, wrote that “The basic sound of a Johnny Hartman performance touches on all three sources: jazz, adult pop, and cabaret.”

He was also, according to Friedwald (and it’s difficult to argue), “one of the greatest of all interpreters of love songs.”

It wasn’t just a question of a deep, sensual voice, which he surely had: it was his romantic attitude. ‘There was a sentimentality to him,’ his longtime accompanist Tony Monte put it. ‘He was in love with the idea of being in love, and he [continually] expressed that idea. He would sing about it, and he would speak about in his patter. He would look out wistfully in the audience and say he was going to dedicate the rest of the show to the beautiful women out there and to the men who brought them, and who were paying such great attention to them. And it wasn’t just a little piece of theater, he meant what he was saying.’

In honor of Autumn, which is coming to a close, here is Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane’s rendition of “Autumn Serenade.”

And “The Nearness of You,” written by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington. This song can just about melt a person.


Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Music


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10 responses to “A Return to Earth and Johnny Hartman

  1. The Animation Commendation

    November 21, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. maddylovesherclassicfilms

    November 21, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Nice to have you back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman)

    November 22, 2017 at 9:09 am

    We’re glad you’re back, and back with such wonderful news about this book, and the reminder (sad to say I needed a reminder) of how much we all need some Johnny Hartman in our lives.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jo Stafford lately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      November 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

      Oh, nice! She has such a perfect voice, doesn’t she? Impossibly cool at times, and yet beautiful and also feeling. I only just discovered her and can’t figure out why it took so long!

      Which songs or albums do you enjoy most of hers?


  4. Realweegiemidget Reviews

    December 9, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Missed you – great to have you back!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amycondit

    December 15, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Glad to learn about Johhny Hartman. It just goes to demonstrate how many singers I’m still unfamiliar with. I loved your Coltrane/Hartman selections, and promptly put both albums on my wish list!

    I enjoy the smooth tones of Jo Stafford, too. I have a wonderful album on cd called “Fancy Meeting You Here” by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. The 2001 cd release has a couple of bonus tracks of Bing singing the title song and another ditty with Jo Stafford from a tv special in the late fifties that I feel you’d enjoy. You can see some footage of this on YouTube, I believe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      December 15, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks! I have not seen that and will definitely look for that. It’s always so great to see great artists interact live.

      I know what you mean. I hadn’t heard of Johnny Hartman until recently and it seems like there are so many singers out there I either don’t know or haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet.

      I wish you happy listening!



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