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Reviews/Articles about the Book 

Icon Magazine (review June 2013)
Jazz Journal (review December 2012)
Downbeat Magazine (review December 2012)
Jazz Journalists Association (review Aug 2012)
DownBeat Magazine (editors' pick: July 2012)

AllAboutJazz.com (article/book excerpt)
Jazz History Online (review)
Huffington Post: Books Section (interview)
San Diego Reader (article/interview)
SloaneView (review by jazz singer Carol Sloane)  

  Stupefaction (article)
UpstateBizSC (article)
USC Upstate News  (article) 
SCTheatre.org (article)
Swampfox News (article)
Spartanburg Herald Journal (article) 

Media Kit

 Downloads:One-pager for media interviews; book brochurepresentation brochurehi-res image of Johnny Hartman; lo-res image of Johnny Hartman; hi-res image of Gregg Akkerman lo-res image of Gregg Akkermanhi-res book cover (tif file); lo-res book cover

 The Voice of Romance Revealed
in First-Ever Biography of Singer Johnny Hartman

His baritone voice held millions in anticipation as Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep slowly danced in The Bridges of Madison County. His renditions of “My One and Only Love” and “Lush Life” with iconic saxophonist John Coltrane have become definitive masterpieces. His recordings have enhanced the seduction of Victoria’s Secret and the sophistication of scotch and wine.  Yet, even all these years since his passing in 1983, the complete story of Johnny Hartman has never been documented. Only now, in The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story does author Gregg Akkerman reveal the entire account of how Hartman became the very voice of romance in our time.

In what has been called a “beautifully written and meticulously researched” biography, Akkerman traces the journey of the Grammy-nominated vocalist from his big-band origins with Earl Hines and Dizzy Gillespie to his storied career as a solo recording artist. Through exclusive interviews with Hartman’s family and fellow musicians (including Tony Bennett, Billy Taylor, Kurt Elling, Jon Hendricks and many others), accounts from friends, and newly discovered recordings, Akkerman expertly recollects the Hartman character as an artist, gentleman, family man, and ardent contributor to the jazz scene. Fervently clinging to love songs of the Great American Songbook, Hartman personifies the “last balladeer” of his kind, singing with a sentiment that still captures the hearts of fans across the world. And now, for the first time, Hartman’s story is finally told.

Note on the Author: Dr. Gregg Akkerman is a tenured Associate Professor of Music at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg and still performs regularly as a pianist-vocalist specializing in the Great American Songbook.

The Last Balladeer Topics of Discussion:

  • The complete documentation of the 1963 recording session for the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album, including definitive answers on mythical outtakes and lost tapes
  • The straight-forward opinions from Hartman’s friends and peers concerning why the singer never gained more notoriety in his lifetime
  • All the details behind the soundtrack to The Bridges of Madison County including the rumors that Hartman’s recordings were digitally lowered in pitch
  • The real story of exactly when Hartman sang in the Army, joined Earl Hines, left Dizzy Gillespie, worked in England, his mysterious trip to Australia, and how many times he toured Japan
  • Comprehensive documentation on every recording Hartman ever made, including dozens that fell out of print or have never been released

Questions to Ask Dr. Gregg Akkerman

  1. What led to the decision to write this book?
  2. What was it like to talk with so many great musicians about Johnny Hartman?
  3. Does this book have the support of the Hartman family?
  4. Is Hartman really the last balladeer?
  5. Did John Coltrane and Hartman ever perform together after their recording session?
  6. Do you have a favorite Hartman recording?
  7. What CD do you suggest to get a good overview of Hartman’s recordings?
  8. Was there anyone you wished you could have interviewed for the book who wasn’t available?
  9. What is it about Hartman's voice that seems to define romantic music?
  10. How can people contact you to ask questions or share their own Hartman stories?

What Others are Saying:
Akkerman…has made a crucial contribution to keeping Hartman’s memory alive with this biography.
           ~Aaron Cohen's "Editor's Pick" at DownBeat Magazine

This book fills a notable hole in jazz biography. Gregg Akkerman, a musician, scholar, and educator, has provided another example of the high quality of work published in jazz musicology and biography over the past 10 to 15 years. Meticulously and methodically, he traces Hartman’s life and career from beginning to end, enlisting the assistance of his widow and children and the surviving musicians who knew, worked with, and admired him. Akkerman also provides what is undoubtedly the last word on Hartman’s discography, making this the authoritative source for all things Hartman.
            ~Journal of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections

"Gregg Akkerman fills many gaps and corrects often-published errors surrounding a singer of extraordinary talent and merit."~Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal

"If Johnny Hartman is in some way an underappreciated artist, Mr. Akkerman has done his part to set things right with a moving biography."
           ~Tony Mottola, editor, Jersey Jazz 

"Akkerman examines the artistic successes and professional failures of Hartman’s career in extensive and compassionate detail. He has dipped deeply into contemporary press accounts and filled them out with extensive interviews for a first-rate work."
          ~
John McDonough, Downbeat

[Akkerman's] book, with its meticulous research and sensitive writing style, is definitely a welcome addition to the jazz literature.
            ~ Tungsten Knauer, Jazzinstitut (Germany)

"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. The Last Balladeer is a must-have for anyone interested in American popular music."
          ~Leonard Mustazza, author of Ol' Blue Eyes: A Frank Sinatra Encyclopedia

 With its bountiful research, The Last Balladeer paints a full-color portrait of a singer we only knew through pencil sketches."
          ~Tom Cunniffe, Jazz History Online

"I read The Last Balladeer over the weekend and enjoyed it immensely. It mirrors many of my own joys and frustrations in the music industry and is a wonderful, fitting tribute to one of America's most gifted singers."
          ~Carol Sloane, jazz vocalist

"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, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

"My former wife not only had a facility for singing jazz (well), but also remembering lyrics of out-of-the-way songs of the type sung by Johnny Hartman whose music she loved. Recalling her rendering of “I Just Dropped By to Say Hello” while reading this book made me realize just how well Akkerman expertly captures the life and music of this vital, memorable jazz singer."
         ~Tad Hershorn, 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."
         ~Jeffery S. McMillan, author of Delightfulee: The Life and Music of Lee Morgan

"Akkerman's writing style is terrific. Excellent story telling that flows seamlessly - not antiseptic fact regurgitation that plagues so many biographies."
         ~Bill McCann, host of "The Saturday Morning Edition of Jazz" 90.9 FM, WCDB, Albany, NY

"Anyone who loves Hartman's work will consider this a 'must-have.'"
         ~Robert Bush, San Diego Reader

"[W]ith this lucid and meticulously researched new book, [Johnny] Hartman - whose life and career were models of self-effacing professionalism - finally has the biography he deserves."
         ~David Kastin, Jazz Journalists Association News

The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story by Gregg Akkerman
Scarecrow Press (July 2012), 370 pages, hardcover/$55
ISBN: 978-0-8108-8281-2

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Gregg Akkerman is a writer/performer/educator born in the southern California desert to a mother with the good sense to provide her son the same birthday as Duke Ellington. He worked many years as a pianist/vocalist throughout the Southwest before earning a Masters of Music in Jazz Studies from San Diego State University and a Doctorate of Arts in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Northern Colorado. His recent book, The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story, was published in 2012. Akkerman is the editor of The Listener’s Companion book series from Scarecrow Press, authors the "Jazz on the 90th Floor" column for All About Jazz, and his articles have appeared in JAZZed and the Jazz Education Journal.

Currently, Akkerman is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg where he holds the position of Director of Jazz Studies and Commercial Music. He still performs on a regular basis and specializes in music of the Great American Songbook. 

 Akkerman performing vocals and piano on "The More I See You"


 

The reproduction of any content from this website without permission from Gregg Akkerman is prohibited.