Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Standards: My One and Only Love

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: My One and Only Love


So, what is a ‘standard’ anyway? The temptation is to see the term as defining that special type of popular song that has, through no real fault of its own, managed to move beyond mere ubiquity into the realms of cliché. Ask a cross-section of people to name a standard and the songs mentioned would be telling – My Way, perhaps, or Unforgettable. My Baby Just Cares For Me. That type of thing.

The only trouble there, of course, is that these songs aren’t standards. We equate them with a particular artist, but would be hard pressed to name a version of the song recorded by anyone other than that person. To an extent, they become cabaret fodder, or the purview of lazy impressionists in need of some kind of shorthand with which to telegraph to an equally lazy audience who it is they are trying to pastiche.

My One and Only Love, on the other hand, is a true standard having been recorded by a huge number of artists despite never exactly achieving the type of fame that can so effectively rob a song of all its power. This version comes from John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman’s self-titled 1963 masterpiece, and words can’t do it justice. Suffice it to say that if you are unfamiliar with Hartman this recording will make you wonder how it’s possible that a singer of such warmth and emotional range could possibly be so comparatively little-known. As for Trane – well, the avant-garde’s gain was certainly lyrical jazz’s loss: this was the only vocal album he would ever record as band leader, and that seems a damn shame.

Guest post by Houman

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