Monday, March 7, 2011

The Coltrane-Hartman Collaboration, March 7, 1963

47 years ago today, two men named John walked into Rudy van Gelder's studio and made music history, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartmanwith the indispensable assistance of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums.
    1. "They Say It's Wonderful" (Irving Berlin) - 5:15
    2. "Dedicated to You" (Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin, Hy Zaret) - 5:27
    3. "My One and Only Love" (Guy Wood, Robert Mellin) - 4:50
    4. "Lush Life" (Billy Strayhorn) - 5:20
    5. "You Are Too Beautiful" (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) - 5:32
    6: "Autumn Serenade" (Peter DeRose, Sammy Gallop) - 4:11
At just over 31 minutes in length, it was shorter than the average LP, but incomparably richer esthetically:

"Though Coltrane and Hartman had known each other since their days playing with Dizzy Gillespie's band in the late 1940s (Hartman had been with the band on an on and off basis, and Coltrane played [third] alto with the band in 1949), Hartman is the only vocalist with whom the saxophonist would record as a leader. Initially when producer Bob Thiele approached Hartman with Coltrane's request that the two record together Hartman was hesitant as he did not consider himself a jazz singer and did not think he and Coltrane would complement one another musically. However, Thiele encouraged Hartman to go see Coltrane perform at Birdland in New York to see if something could be worked out. Hartman did so, and after the club closed he, Coltrane, and Coltrane's pianist McCoy Tyner, went over some songs together. On March 7, 1963 Coltrane and Hartman had decided on 10 songs for the record album, but en route to the studio they heard Nat King Cole on the radio performing "Lush Life", and Hartman immediately decided that song had to be included in their album. The legendary compilation was made that same day . . . ."  (From the Wiki entry)
Now let's get lost in their classic take on Billy Strayhorn's  "Lush Life": 

And on Guy Woods and Robert Mellin's "My One and Only Love": 

The last word (at least here) is from reviewer Jacob Teichroew:
"The most striking aspect of this album, filled with songs about love's shortcomings, is the simplicity with which both Coltrane and Hartman treat the melodies. Hartman, never much the bebop singer, chose to stay close to original melodies as a general rule, letting his velvety tone and thoughtful phrasing become the focus. Coltrane, who had a few years before recorded Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959), a document of his technical wizardry, was inspired by Hartman's simplicity. On John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Coltrane plays as if he is singing. The result is a stunning combination of lyrical and emotional expression.  Coltrane went on to produce many more albums, and developed an often-studied body of experimental work. Hartman never saw quite the same level of fame, and never strayed far from nuanced, romantic jazz. While Coltrane is now considered an American icon, Hartman is unknown to all but jazz enthusiasts. However, on this record, the two talents meet to create a dark and beautiful masterpiece."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 6, 1923. Happy Birthday, Wes!

Wish I had time to do more than to say I hope you'll enjoy this clip of Wes Montgomery's hard-boppin' lines on "Jingles."  That's Harold Mabern on piano, very much still with us!

Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4th in Jazz History: Two Charlies, Too Soon Departed

On March 4, 1941, "pre-bop" Jazz guitar legend Charlie Christian recorded (with the Benny Goodman Sextet) "Solo Flight," which reached the top of Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade and 20th from the top of Billboard's Hot 100 (Pop).  (A very helpful analysis of Christian's distinctive ideas, some from "Solo Flight," is here.) A couple of days less than a year later, Christian died of complications of tuberculosis (contracted in the 1930s), age 25.  If you have three minutes to spare, spend it on this, right now:

Exactly fourteen years later, March 4, 1955, at Birdland, the club named in his honor (and from which, ironically, he was once barred for lack of a cabaret license), Charlie Parker played in public for the last time.  He died eight days later at the Stanhope Hotel in Manhattan at the age of 34. ("The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer, but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis of the liver and had had a heart attack. Any one of the four ailments could have killed him." From the Wiki article.)  A moving reminiscence by Jackie McLean was my favorite part of this video clip: