The baritone achieved his greatest fame with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, an all-ballad album from 1962 that set Hartman’s richly sonorous voice amid Coltrane‘s quartet in some of its quietest moments. Most of Hartman’s sparse recorded output puts the same emphasis on his warmly lyrical work at slower tempos, but this CD is different. It’s a selection from two LPs recorded in Japan in 1972, with the first five tracks from a tribute to Trane and the final seven from Hartman’s meeting with trumpeter Terumasa Hino.
Both present Hartman in a surprising light, swinging that powerful voice with extraordinary ease. The tribute’s arrangements echo Coltrane’s own treatments, and “Nature Boy” is as distinctive as Nat Cole‘s landmark version. The later session with Hino is just as good, spotlighting another underrecognized musician. The support is terrific throughout, making these some of Hartman’s finest recordings. Hearing him as a complete jazz singer–not just the consummate balladeer–makes his short discography all the more regrettable. – Stuart Broomer/Amazon.com