A ballad commands something from the singer that no other type of song does.  It represents an exquisite vulnerability, and will not be truly felt by the listener if it does not come straight from the heart and soul.  I used to be afraid to perform a ballad and had to work my way through a few swing tunes before I felt ready to sing it.  I still prefer not opening a set with a ballad, as I need to be warmed up before I am able to open myself up to the exposure a ballad represents.  Not everyone can deliver a ballad.  The sensitivity absolutely must be there.  John Coltrane recorded the exquisite “Ballads” album in late 1961.  After doing that he wanted to record a ballads album with a singer, and he insisted that the only singer he wanted to work with was Johnny Hartman, relatively unknown in the jazz field.  Hartman, himself, did not regard himself as a jazz singer at the time, but his mellifluous baritone lent itself easily to the genre, and the album, “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”, is one of the superlative legendary recordings of all time.  In my opinion, no one can surpass Mr. Hartman as an interpreter of the ballad form.

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