Johnny Hartman

John Maurice Hartman (July 13, 1923 – September 15, 1983)[1] was an American bass jazz singer who specialized in ballads and earned critical acclaim, though he was never widely known. He recorded a well-known collaboration with the saxophonist John Coltranein 1963 called John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, and was briefly a member of Dizzy Gillespie‘s group. Most of his career was spent recording solo albums. On the shortlist of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Johnny Hartman possessed a beautiful voice, good looks and an engaging stage presence, yet the crossover fame he richly deserved eluded him during his lifetime. Hartman’s lush bass was similar to Billy Eckstine’s, but less mannered; Hartman always cited Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole as his primary influences, audible in his naturalistic phrasing and attention to the narrative detail of a lyric.

“My One And Only Love” with Coltrane

“It Never Entered My Mind” Can you believe that was Sammy David playing vibes!!

“In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning”

While Hartman recorded infrequently over a four decade career (especially in comparison to his peers), Songs From the Heart (1955), I Just Dropped By to Say Hello and John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (both 1963) easily rank alongside the greatest jazz albums ever, vocals or no vocals. Esquire magazine even chose his collaboration with Coltrane as the greatest album ever made, and while rock fans would argue that point, the masterpiece is certainly one of the most exquisitely beautiful ever recorded. Although a select group of loyal fans and (especially) jazz musicians loved these albums, by the late-1960s Hartman was working primarily in Japan and Australia (where he starred in his own TV specials). By the late-’70s Hartman was working back in the States, where he earned a Grammy nomination in 1980. Then, just as his career was taking off again, he developed cancer and died in 1983. In the mid-’90s, longtime fan Clint Eastwood included a handful of Hartman tracks in his darkly romantic adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. The film introduced Hartman to a whole new generation of listeners, and the resulting soundtrack CD, as well as two re-issued Hartman albums, quickly sold more than any of his work had during his lifetime.

“These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You”

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Discography

  • Songs from the Heart (Bethlehem, 1955)
  • All of Me (Bethlehem, 1956)
  • Johnny Hartman Sings…Just You, Just Me (Savoy Jazz, 1957)
  • And I Thought About You (Roost, 1959)
  • John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963)
  • I Just Dropped By to Say Hello (Impulse!, 1963)
  • The Voice That Is! (Impulse!, 1965)
  • Unforgettable Songs (ABC-Paramount, 1966)
  • I Love Everybody (ABC-Paramount, 1967)
  • Today (Perception Records, 1972)
  • I’ve Been There (Perception, 1973)
  • Johnny Hartman (Musicor, 1977)
  • Once In Every Life (Bee Hive Records, 1980)
  • This One’s for Tedi (Audiophile, 1985)
  • For Trane (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Johnny Hartman Collection 1947-1972 (Hip-O, 1998)
  • Thanks for Everything (Audiophile, 1998)
  • Complete Regent Recordings (Jazz Factory, 2001)
  • You Came A Long Way From St. Louis (Definitive, 2003)
  • A Proper Introductio to Johnny Hartman: There Goes My Heart (Proper, 2004)
  • Tokyo Albums (Gambit, 2005)
  • Boston Concert 1976 (Gambit, 2007)
  • Dancetracks: “Beyond the Sea” & “Caravan” recorded in 1979 (Grenadilla Music, 2010)
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Oscar Levant

Oscar Levant (December 27, 1906 – August 14, 1972) was an American pianistcomposerauthorcomedian, and actor. He was more famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and in movies and television, than for his music.

Born in PittsburghPennsylvania, to an Orthodox Jewish family from Russia, Levant moved to New York with his mother, Annie, in 1922, following the death of his father, Max. He began studying under Zygmunt Stojowski, a well-established piano pedagogue. In 1924, aged 18, he appeared with Ben Bernie in a short film, Ben Bernie and All the Lads, made in New York City in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film system.

In 1928, Levant traveled to Hollywood where his career took a turn for the better. During his stay, he met and befriended George Gershwin. From 1929 to 1948 he composed the music for more than twenty movies. During this period, he also wrote or co-wrote numerous popular songs that made the Hit Parade, the most noteworthy being “Blame It on My Youth” (1934), now considered to be a standard.

“I Got Rhythm”

Around 1932, Levant began composing seriously. He studied under Arnold Schoenberg and impressed him sufficiently to be offered an assistantship (which he turned down, considering himself unqualified).[1] His formal studies led to a request by Aaron Copland to play at the Yaddo Festival of contemporary American music on April 30 of that year. Successful, Levant began on a new orchestral work, a sinfonietta. He married actress Barbara Woodell; they divorced in 1932.

Trailer for “An American In Paris”

In 1939, Levant married for the second time, to singer and actress June Gale (née Gilmartin), part of the singing foursome The Gale Sisters (besides June, there were Jane, Joan, and Jean). They were married for almost 33 years, until his death, and had three children, Marcia, Lorna, and Amanda.

“Rhapsody In Blue” Part 1

At this time, Levant was perhaps best known to American audiences as one of the regular panelists on the radio quiz show Information Please. Originally scheduled as a guest panelist, Levant proved so quick-witted and popular that he became a regular fixture on the show in the late 1930s and 1940s, along with fellow panelists Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran, and moderator Clifton Fadiman. “Mr. Levant”, as he was always called, was often challenged with musical questions, though he impressed audiences with his wide depth of knowledge and quickness with a joke. Kieran praised Levant as having a “positive genius for making offhand cutting remarks that couldn’t have been sharper if he’d honed them a week in his mind. Oscar was always good for a bright response edged with acid”.

From 1947 to 1949, Levant regularly appeared on NBC radio’s Kraft Music Hall, starring Al Jolson. He not only accompanied Jolson on the piano and played classical and popular solos, but often joked and ad-libbed with Jolson and his guests. This includes comedy sketches. The pairing of the two entertainers was inspired. Their individual ties to George Gershwin — Jolson introduced Gershwin’s “Swanee” — undoubtedly had much to do with their rapport. Both Levant and Jolson appeared as themselves in the Gershwin biopicRhapsody in Blue (1945).

In the early 1950s, Levant was an occasional panelist on the NBC game showWho Said That?, in which celebrites try to determine the speaker of quotations taken from recent news reports.[2]

 

 

 

From “The Band Wagon”

Between 1958 and 1960, Levant hosted a television talk show on KCOP-TV in Los AngelesThe Oscar Levant Show, which later becamesyndicated. It featured his piano playing along with monologues and interviews with top-name guests such as Fred Astaire and Linus Pauling. A full recording of only two shows is known to exist,[3] one with Astaire, who paid to have a kinescope recording of the broadcast made, so that he could assess his performance. This is likely the only Astaire performance to have imperfections, as it was live, and Levant would repeatedly change the tempo of his accompaniment to Astaire’s singing during the bridges between verses, which appeared to get him quite off balance at first. He did not dance, as the studio space was extremely small.

 

 

“That’s Entertainment”

The show was highly controversial, eventually being taken from the air after a comment about Marilyn Monroe‘s conversion to Judaism: “Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her”. He later stated that he “hadn’t meant it that way”. Several months later, the show began to be broadcast in a slightly revised format—it was taped in order to provide a buffer for Levant’s antics. This, however, failed to prevent Levant from making comments about Mae West‘s sex life that caused the show to be canceled for good. Levant was also a frequent guest on Jack Paar‘s talk show, prompting Paar in later years to sign off by saying, “Good night, Oscar Levant, wherever you are.”On an appearance on the Tonight Show, from New York, Levant once quipped that his Jaguar ambulance was waiting outside for him.

The 1920s and 1930s wit Alexander Woollcott, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, once said of him: “There isn’t anything the matter with Levant that a few miracles wouldn’t cure.” [4]

 

Oscar’s song, “Blame It On My Youth” performed by Jeri Southern

Open about his neuroses and hypochondria, Levant, in later life became addicted to prescription drugs and was frequently committed to mental hospitals by his wife. Despite his afflictions, Levant was considered a genius by some, in many areas. (He himself wisecracked “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”) Levant drew increasingly away from the limelight in his later years. Upon his death in Beverly Hills, California of a heart attack at the age of 65, he was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. In their routines, some comics have claimed, apocryphally, and citing an old joke, that hypochondriac Levant’s epitaph was inscribed, “I told them I was ill.”

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Filmography

Broadway

Memoirs