Monday, March 26, 2007

Review: Danny Gatton "Redneck Jazz Explosion"

Sometime last fall, I received my first unsolicited promos from the fine folks at the Vermont-based Big Mo Records. The prospect of hearing some smokin’ jazz guitar licks from Danny Gatton was an exciting one for me, in part because of some crossed wires in my brain.

“Danny Gatton playing jazz?” I thought. This I had to hear!

Can I be forgiven for getting Danny’s name confused with ‘80s country star Larry Gatlin?

No, to my knowledge, Larry Gatlin has never played jazz and is still very much alive (Gatton committed suicide in 1994, leaving the world as an unsung guitar hero). But apparently the name Danny Gatton sounded country enough to me that I was prepared to hear those overtones peeping through the two volumes of live recordings entitled Redneck Jazz Explosion that feature Danny leading a super tight quartet through some very autumnal sounding instrumental jazz.

Danny’s Redneck Jazz Explosion band recorded these live sides at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. back in 1978 with Danny playing some hot guitar, and an equally stunning Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel is what lends the music its deepest shades of country, even as funk, pop, and straight-ahead jazz all crash together into a fiery mix of original improvisational music. Rounding out the rhythm section were Steve Wolf on bass, and Scott Taylor on drums.

The program of selections is a mixed bag, ranging from compositions by jazz royalty such as Horace Silver (“Opus De Funk” on Volume One, “Song For My Father” and “Filthy McNasty” on Volume Two) and Sonny Rollins (“Sonnymoon For Two” on Volume Two), to a soul jazz number by Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy” appears on both volumes), and recastings of pop tunes by Leonard Cohen (“Famous Blue Raincoat” on Volume One) and Bobbie Gentry (“Ode To Bille Joe” on Volume Two). Even a Rimsky-Korsakov composition, “Song Of India,” is worked into the program – with a disco beat! It’s actually quite infectious, and is the tune that has stuck with me the most over the course of several listens to the entire contents of both discs.

Throughout the program, various different effects are heard decorating the sound of Danny’s guitar, courtesy of an invention he plugged into called a “Magic Dingus Box.” The effect most often recalled is that of the rotating Leslie speaker most often heard attached to electric organs, hence the Jack McDuff covers. The textures vary throughout, and Danny used them all quite well.

I find it hard to really do these recordings justice with my own words, especially in the face of Brawner Smoot’s excellent, extensive liner notes.

And besides, a video clip is worth far more than any mere words I could ever dish out on this guy:

Is your jaw dropping yet?

Note, if you’re so inclined to snatch these discs up, Big Mo Records is the exclusive vendor for both volumes of Redneck Jazz Explosion.

1 comment:

Ed said...


This is Ed Eastridge at Big Mo. I recorded much of Danny's material throughout his life. We were great friends. I appreciate your kind words re. the RJX sessions.

I just put up the Untouchable recordings as downloadable mp3s at:

We will be reissuing Redneck Jazz (studio sessions) shortly.