After “Coltrane”, the second indisputably great album from this period is “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”. I am not much of a one for Jazz Vocalists, especially male Jazz vocalists, but, man, Mr Hartman has a way with a phrase. If anything, his voice, intonation, vibrato, and enunciation are almost too perfect. Too Beautiful, to borrow a phrase from Lorenz Hart.
Not only that, but after all the fumbling around for the “Ballads” album, the band arrives at something really great here in its accompaniments. Sensitive to the vocalist and subtle in its inflections. It’s hard to believe it is the same band. A perfect album.
This posthumously released recording of Coltrane’s “classic quartet”, (Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner,) is viewed as a transitional album, between Coltrane’s modal and devotional work of the early 60s and the more ecstatic devotional work of the mid to late 60s. (Also, Impulse redid the track listings for the CD reissue, replacing “Dear God” with “Welcome” and “Vigil” from the same sessions, but originally released on the Kulu Sé Mama album.) The soloing on Transition isn’t really so far from that on “The John Coltrane Quartet Plays”, it’s more that the extended songs, “Transition” and “Suite”, discard most of the traditional Jazz trappings of “head-solo-head” for a more organic approach. An extension of “A Love Supreme”, really.