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Subtitled An Appreciation of Johnny Hartman, one expects an album of songs associated with Johnny Hartman as interpreted by Jim Conroy. While four of the tunes fall into this category, the remaining six are compositions by Conroy, some tributes to Hartman. Conroy has that deep baritone that made Hartman vocal interpretations so special, and it is a pleasant voice indeed. But it falls a bit short of that smooth as melted chocolate tone that was uniquely Hartman's. Of the Conroy material, "Heart of the Man" is one of the better efforts. Joined by backup vocals, this is Conroy's unabashed poetic psalm of adoration to the great singer. "Johnny Kept on Singing" is a Vocalese tale of Hartman's continued efforts as balladeer despite the many changes in public taste in popular music that came along during his career. Through it all "Johnny Kept on Singing".
Conroy does well with the tunes which are in Hartman's vocal bailiwick. "You Are too Beautiful" comes from the memorable Lush Life with the John Coltrane Quartet. While not measuring up to Hartman's interpretation (and who does?), Conroy does not embarrass himself by any means. Edd Richards' piano does a nice job on the McCoy Tyner solo from this track. "Don't You Know I Care", from Hartman's 1963 I Just Dropped By To Say Hello album for Impulse!, is helped considerably by the appearance of saxophonist Red Holloway.
This is a very listenable album. It's an accolade to a great singer, but without aimless aping of songs the honoree sang. Not Hartman by any means, but still a good presentation and recommended.
Track Listing: Inspiration^; Heart of the Man*%; A Night at the Parisian^; Don't You Know I Care*$; You Stepped out of a Dream$; I Just Dropped By to Say Hello%; Nature Boy%; You Are Too Beautiful*^; Johnny Kept on Singing;$ Appreciation$
Personnel: Jim Conroy - Vocals; Ken Hustad - Bass; Gary Drysdale - Guitar; Scott Wright*, Red Holloway# - Sax; Bruce Beck$, Bill Murray%, Edd Richards^ - Piano; Darrell Voss - Drums; Julia Babb, Inga Swearingen - Backup Vocals
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.