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"The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story" book-signing on July 31

None

One of the defining moments in my musical life occurred in the late '70s, when I first heard the historic, eponymously titled collaboration between my hero, saxophone titan John Coltrane, and a singer who I had never heard of, baritone Johnny Hartman.

At the time, I didn't dig jazz singers all that much, ( I thought), and only bought the record because I was trying to amass the complete Coltrane catalog. By all rights, given my tiny ears at the time--I should have hated the record--or even worse, laughed at it.

That isn't what happened, by a long shot.

The sublime collective sound of Coltrane's "classic" quartet: McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums proved to create the ultimate elixir with the addition of Hartman's luxuriant instrument being shadowed by the tenor-man's obbligatos.

I became an instant fan. Hartman's voice was deep, pitch-perfect and perfectly enunciated. You could hear every single word with absolute clarity.

Over the years, I bought most of the vocalist's records, and often wondered why there weren't more of them. Information on the man was scarce, and often misleading.

Former San Diego musician Gregg Akkerman, currently the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate, devoted two years to rectify that situation with his brand-new Hartman bio, The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story.

On July 31, Akkerman returns to San Diego for a book-signing event at the Twiggs Coffee Shop Green Room, located at Park Blvd. and Madison in University Heights.

The book has already been chosen as an "editor's pick" by DownBeat magazine, and has also earned praise from AllAboutJazz.com, and many others.

I've read an excerpt, and can verify that anyone who loves the singer's work will consider this a "must-have". (Go to johnnyhartmanbook.com for more info.)

Akkerman spent the '90s in SD working full-time as a keyboardist for blues, reggae and variety bands, ultimately switching to piano bar and cabaret gigs with singers to save his ears from permanent damage. He spent 16 years in the area, earning 2 degrees from SDSU before heading east to pursue his Doctorate.

What was the inspiration for the book on Hartman?

"Saxophonist Johnny Viau first played me Hartman's "Lush Life," in the early 1990s and I was hooked on his singing. Years later, I wanted to read his biography and realized there wasn't one. The man did some great work in his life and deserves to have the story told, so I decided to accept the task myself."

I asked how he came up with the information.

"Old fashioned research, digging through archives at libraries combined with all of the advantages of the Internet. I really got to know the avanced search functions in Google, but I also visited the Library of Congress to hear out-of-print recordings and visited the Hartman family and [his] associates in New York. Most of the people I contacted were thrilled to know they were contributing to a Johnny Hartman book.

What was the deepest insight he discovered about the iconic vocalist?

"As great a singer as Hartman was, I came to realize he was an even better family man. He made a lot of career decisions that kept him closer to home and his kids and that probably kept him from achieving more popularity. Even though he died in 1983, his wife never remarried and still lives today in the apartment they had together. Clearly, he did something right to earn that kind of dedication."

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One of the defining moments in my musical life occurred in the late '70s, when I first heard the historic, eponymously titled collaboration between my hero, saxophone titan John Coltrane, and a singer who I had never heard of, baritone Johnny Hartman.

At the time, I didn't dig jazz singers all that much, ( I thought), and only bought the record because I was trying to amass the complete Coltrane catalog. By all rights, given my tiny ears at the time--I should have hated the record--or even worse, laughed at it.

That isn't what happened, by a long shot.

The sublime collective sound of Coltrane's "classic" quartet: McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums proved to create the ultimate elixir with the addition of Hartman's luxuriant instrument being shadowed by the tenor-man's obbligatos.

I became an instant fan. Hartman's voice was deep, pitch-perfect and perfectly enunciated. You could hear every single word with absolute clarity.

Over the years, I bought most of the vocalist's records, and often wondered why there weren't more of them. Information on the man was scarce, and often misleading.

Former San Diego musician Gregg Akkerman, currently the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate, devoted two years to rectify that situation with his brand-new Hartman bio, The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story.

On July 31, Akkerman returns to San Diego for a book-signing event at the Twiggs Coffee Shop Green Room, located at Park Blvd. and Madison in University Heights.

The book has already been chosen as an "editor's pick" by DownBeat magazine, and has also earned praise from AllAboutJazz.com, and many others.

I've read an excerpt, and can verify that anyone who loves the singer's work will consider this a "must-have". (Go to johnnyhartmanbook.com for more info.)

Akkerman spent the '90s in SD working full-time as a keyboardist for blues, reggae and variety bands, ultimately switching to piano bar and cabaret gigs with singers to save his ears from permanent damage. He spent 16 years in the area, earning 2 degrees from SDSU before heading east to pursue his Doctorate.

What was the inspiration for the book on Hartman?

"Saxophonist Johnny Viau first played me Hartman's "Lush Life," in the early 1990s and I was hooked on his singing. Years later, I wanted to read his biography and realized there wasn't one. The man did some great work in his life and deserves to have the story told, so I decided to accept the task myself."

I asked how he came up with the information.

"Old fashioned research, digging through archives at libraries combined with all of the advantages of the Internet. I really got to know the avanced search functions in Google, but I also visited the Library of Congress to hear out-of-print recordings and visited the Hartman family and [his] associates in New York. Most of the people I contacted were thrilled to know they were contributing to a Johnny Hartman book.

What was the deepest insight he discovered about the iconic vocalist?

"As great a singer as Hartman was, I came to realize he was an even better family man. He made a lot of career decisions that kept him closer to home and his kids and that probably kept him from achieving more popularity. Even though he died in 1983, his wife never remarried and still lives today in the apartment they had together. Clearly, he did something right to earn that kind of dedication."

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Comments
2

that recording is such a gem, and now i come to respect him as a father as well as a singer.

i made similar decisions. many have i guess, and as result are not known.

we're just all damn lucky he made this record prior to that noble decision. definitely going to check this book.

thanks, mr bush.

None

July 18, 2012

You were able to grow and become a fan with exposure to new types of musicians/vocalists. Knowledge expands horizons in any discipline. The challenge is to encourage people to try something new.

July 18, 2012

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