Johnny Hartman - Songs From the Heart
Songs From the Heart
By Johnny Hartman
Very Good Condition
Most jazz fans know Johnny Hartman from the famous album he recorded with John Coltrane in the early '60s. However, the singer had an illustrious career prior to that, recording for a variety of labels including Bethlehem, which released this album for the first time in 1956, six years before the Coltrane session. Of all Hartman's earlier albums, Songs from the Heart is the best place to start. It features the crooner fronting a small band, which gives the proceedings a more intimate ambience than Hartman's forays as a big-band singer (with Dizzy Gillespie, among others). The small ensemble suits Hartman's romantic melancholia perfectly; the album is like one long sob. His smoky baritone fits the mood, and the band follows in suit with some tender but evocative stylings. Considering pianist Ralph Sharon has backed up Tony Bennett for decades, it's not surprising to find in his early work an elegant smoothness. Consisting mostly of standards like "Ain't Misbehavin'," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," and "I'll Remember April," this is the perfect album for pouring a good stiff drink and drowning one's sorrows (especially on a cold winter night). A stand-out track is "Down in the Depths," where Hartman gets carried away, and apparently so does the band: the tangling between bassist Jay Cave and Sharon is the most exciting moment on the album. --Joe S. Harrington
Note: I am reviewing the CD version of Songs From the Heart, which contains six additional bonus tracks that the MP3 version lacks. Since reviews for both products are cross linked (at the time of this review) I wanted to clarify that to save confusion and disappointment.
This is Hartman's first album as a leader and it's a puzzle why he did not receive wider acclaim. If you listen to the sound samples on the MP3 version's page at Songs From The Heart you will hear not only his rich voice, but soulful ability to convey the meanings of each song. That's a rare gift and the sound samples clearly show he had it.
Not all tracks fit a coherent romantic theme (Ain't Misbehavin' is an example of one that does not), but all come across as romantic. Perhaps it's the sensual quality of Hartman's voice. For me Howard McGhee's trumpet added the perfect backing for Hartman's voice, and the rhythm section comprised of Ralph Sharon on piano, Jay Cave on bass and Christy Febbo on drums support Hartman (and McGhee) with sensitivity.
This album was recorded for Bethlehem at the Beltone Studios in NYC during October 1955. The original release in 1956 contained twelve tracks, so this CD version is definitely a gem for fans and collectors who want to hear the complete sessions, including the previously unissued alternate takes.
"What Is There to Say?" (Vernon Duke, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg) - 2:52
"Ain't Misbehavin'" (Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, Fats Waller) - 2:50
"I Fall in Love Too Easily" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) - 2:26
"We'll Be Together Again" (Carl T. Fischer, Frankie Laine) - 3:03
"Down in the Depths (On the Ninetieth Floor)" (Cole Porter) - 3:01
"They Didn't Believe Me" (Jerome Kern, Herbert Reynolds) - 2:36
"I'm Glad There Is You" (Jimmy Dorsey, Paul Mertz) - 2:32
"When Your Lover Has Gone" (Einar A. Swan) - 3:10
"I'll Remember April" (Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston, Don Raye) - 3:12
"I See Your Face Before Me" (Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz) - 3:34
"September Song" (Maxwell Anderson, Kurt Weill) - 3:52
"Moonlight in Vermont" (John Blackburn, Karl Suessdorf) - 3:08
- Audio CD (February 15, 2000)
- Original Release Date: 1956
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Original recording remastered
- Label: Rhino
- ASIN: B000046PW2