Saturday, November 22, 2014

Compilation of Book Reviews for "The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story"

Reviews of The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story (Scarecrow Press, 2012) by Gregg Akkerman

Nominated as "Jazz Book of the Year" in 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association. Here is a compilation of various reviews for my biography of vocalist Johnny Hartman:

In pop-music parlance, a ballad is a moderate- to slow-tempo number about love. The bass-baritone Johnny Hartman (1923–83) may be the all-time best ballad singer. During his life, he was nowhere near as renowned as Billy Eckstine, whose range he shared, or Frank Sinatra, whose intimacy and clarity of diction he equaled. Probably, as other musicians told Akkerman, he was constitutionally too shy, gentle, and quiet for stardom. But with saxophonist John Coltrane’s quintet, at its acme in 1963, he made one of the few universally appealing jazz albums. It made him an auditorium-packing headliner in Japan and, with a boost from Clint Eastwood via the Bridges of Madison County soundtrack, put him in the American jazz-singing pantheon. Although “Lush Life” was one of his signature pieces, Hartman lived neither lushly nor fast, so that Akkerman’s first-ever biography has no scandals, crimes, or even misdemeanors to report. Instead, it’s about the days and the achievements of a working musician and, despite some odd word choices, should thoroughly engross lovers of the Great American Songbook.~Booklist

Gregg Akkerman, director of jazz studies at University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, has made a crucial contribution to keeping Hartman’s memory alive with this biography. Akkerman draws on extensive interviews, archives and his own sharp musical analysis to trace Hartman’s Chicago origins, his time serving in both Earl Hines’ and Dizzy Gillespie’s big bands and the creation of the classic 1963 album John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. The author also looks at the longstanding comparisons between Hartman and Billy Eckstine and shows why their supposed rivalry was a canard. ...Now students and fans of jazz vocals can hope that this book will lead to a proper reissue of Hartman’s triumphant 1980 Bee Hive album, Once In Every Life, which contained all four of the Hartman songs that were included on the 1995 CD soundtrack to Madison County.~Downbeat Magazine

Akkerman is a professional musician and educator, and his book offers superb verbal descriptions of Hartman’s recordings and concert performances. These word-paintings are a valuable part of any musical biography, for they encourage the reader to explore the music.~Jazz History Online

The Last Balladeer not only reveals the gentle nature of the man, we learn of his steadfast devotion to his music and fierce determination to maintain his integrity in spite of misguided record producers and errors in judgment along the way. Johnny enjoyed moderate recognition in America, but his most loyal fans dwelt in the shadow of Mount Fuji. When we toured Japan together in 1977, he was greeted by crowds who displayed obvious devotion to his style of singing, and all concerts were at or near SRO in each city we visited. I think you will find Professor Akkerman's book entertaining and most enlightening.~Jazz vocalist Carol Sloan

I've read The Last Balladeer and can verify that anyone who loves the singer's work will consider this a "must-have."~The San Diego Reader

While Akkerman makes no effort to plumb the singer’s psychological depths (or to provide Balliettian descriptions of his vocal magic), with this lucid and meticulously researched new book Hartman - whose life and career were models of self-effacing professionalism – finally has the biography he deserves.~Jazz Journalist Association News

In The Last Balladeer the author displays great empathy and affection for his subject, and if Johnny Hartman is in some way an underappreciated artist, Mr. Akkerman has done his part to set things right with a moving.~Jersey Jazz

A 2012 Holiday Gift Guide Choice!
This book illuminates the life and career of the singer best known for his 1960 album with John Coltrane and the presence of his recordings in the Clint Eastwood 1995 movie Bridges of Madison County. Not surprisingly, Hartman's life encompassed a lot more, artistically, than those highlights.~Jazz Hot House

Johnny Hartman is perhaps the most undeservedly neglected vocalist in the history of twentieth-century popular music. With this meticulously researched and beautifully written volume, Gregg Akkerman has corrected that omission once and for all. Rich in biographical detail about Hartman's life and four-decade career and complemented by the most comprehensive discography ever published, The Last Balladeer is a must-have for anyone interested in American popular music.~Leonard Mustazza, author of Ol' Blues Eyes: A Frank Sinatra Encyclopedia

How can the most serene and pitch-perfect African-American baritone have had such an enigmatic career? In this eloquent, insightful account of Johnny Hartman’s life and music, Gregg Akkerman situates the definitive ballad singer within the context of conflicting demands and longstanding tensions between jazz and popular music.~Barry Kernfeld, editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

Akkerman expertly captures the life and music of this vital, memorable jazz singer.~Tad Hersorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed Johnny Hartman's voice over the years. Whether through his epic collaboration with John Coltrane or his music being featured in major Hollywood films, his incredible voice is one of the most identifiable, gorgeous sounds of the previous century. But how many people know about the man behind the music? Gregg Akkerman has filled a huge hole in jazz and popular music literature with 'The Last Balladeer,' a truly definitive work. Akkerman's tremendous research makes Hartman the singer— and more importantly, Hartman the man— come alive like never before.~Ricky Riccardi, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years

Through excellent research into Johnny Hartman's life and career, Akkerman's The Last Balladeer accomplishes that rare feat in biography of conveying to the reader the day-to-day rhythm of his subject's life.~Jeffrey S. McMillan, author of Delightfulee: The Life and Music of Lee Morgan

 Pick up a copy at your local library or purchase one at the link below:

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