Combining songs from two 1966 ABC-Paramount LPs (Unforgettable Songs by Johnny Hartman and side two of I Love Everybody) onto one CD, the Impulse! label presents this smooth-voiced baritone backed by brassy orchestration for the first time since his dates with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. This proves to be a fine marriage, though lacking the intimacy of his unparalleled recordings with the small ensembles led by John Coltrane (John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman) and Illinois Jacquet (I Just Dropped by to Say Hello). One of the biggest tragedies of the swing/cocktail revival of the late '90s was that this album remained unheard at all the martini parties thrown by hipsters across the globe.
Like dark satin in a highball glass, Johnny Hartman simmers through a song with a combination of Nat "King" Cole's amiable warmth and Frank Sinatra's sly phrasing. Unforgettable shines with pop standards like "The Very Thought of You," "The More I See You," "Isn't It Romantic?," "Almost Like Being in Love," and of course the title track, in which Hartman pays loving tribute to Cole while still never abandoning his own personal touch. The album concludes with five live tracks (side 2 of the 1966 LP I Love Everybody), swingingly propelled by the rapid-fire drumwork of Shelly Manne and including the smoldering "That Old Black Magic" and the hilarious (at least 30+ years later) chauvinism of "Girl Talk." Perfect for a black-tie wedding reception or a much more casual evening for two in front of the fire, Unforgettable (like any of Hartman's Impulse! recordings) is filled with a warm romanticism that never gets smarmy, and always stays as cool as a blackjack dealer at The Sands. ~ Zac Johnson