Saturday, October 29, 2016

Danny Gatton - 1992 "New York Stories"

Danny Gatton (September 4, 1945 – October 4, 1994) was an American guitarist who fused rockabilly, jazz, and country to create his own distinctive style. When Rolling Stone magazine selected the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time in 2003, senior editor David Fricke ranked Gatton 63rd on his ballot.[1] On May 26, 2010, ranked Gatton as the 27th best guitarist of all time

This interesting outing by an all-star group (guitarist Danny Gatton, altoist Bobby Watson, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman on tenor, pianist Franck Amsallem, bassist Charles Fambrough and drummer Yuron Israel) is most notable for featuring the brilliant Gatton in a jazz setting. Together the septet, performs nine originals by group members and Gatton and Watson emerge as the main solo stars. Despite its somewhat generic name, this advanced hard bop date is quite memorable.

This is EXACTLY what I think of when I think of New York style jazz. As you listen to it, you feel as if you are cruising in a cab on a rain-drenched night in Manhattan, off to meet some classy lady for a night on the town. The line-up is superb: Danny Gatton on guitar, showing off his jazz licks with his unique rockabilly spice; amazing trumpet playing by Lee Hargrove; delightful and tasteful Joshua Redman on tenor sax; plus others. Every single cat is WAILING on this release. Look for incredible ensemble playing in the horns, presenting that big, New York banner sound. Get it soon, if you can find it!

The guitarist is Danny Gatton, and though I suppose there could be some people who don't like his guitar playing, he was one of those under-appreciated guitar geniuses who could play any style, and could fuse any styles -- thus he was impossible to pigeonhole or market in the contemporary music world. His playing on this album is brilliant, and I would argue than anyone who believes jazz "requires" a hollow-body guitar hasn't really listened.

I should point out, in the context of the guitar discussion above, that this is really an ensemble piece by a group of master musicians -- Danny Gatton's guitar is not really featured any more (well, maybe a little) than Franck Amsallem's piano, and the album wouldn't be as good as it is without the the horn section of Bobby Watson, Roy Hargrove, and Joshua Redman, the bass of Charles Fambrough, and the drums of Yuron Israel. Of the 9 tracks, 3 were composed by Gatton, 2 by Watson, and 1 each by Fambrough, Amsallem, Israel, and Hargrove -- to the extent that any one person can be said to have "composed" a piece in what was intended to be an old-style Blue Note jam session.

This CD is timeless and an absolute classic. It has to rate as one of my top 5 -- maybe *the* top -- jazz albums ever. The playing, the production, and the overall recording quality are superb. A look at what people are charging for used copies of this CD will indicate how much it's treasured by those who know it.

Already legendary for his country and rock and roll guitar mastery, the late Danny Gatton also released a pure jazz CD on Blue Note, "New York Stories." If there was any doubt that this incredible musician was capable of any style, any time, any place, this CD will put those doubts to rest and we will continue to mourn and lament the passing of one of the greatest guitarists in history. His suicide was provoked according to some theories by his poor record sales, and what a shame.

"New York Stories" is actually a jazz combo effort with Gatton writing all or part of the tunes and sharing his time with a stellar piano and horn section. This is a jam session, and according to the liner notes, a limited amount of rehearsal was allowed to keep the tunes fresh and to allow the improvisational juices to flow.

It's smooth - so much so you almost want to take up smoking and don a fedora while you listen. It harkens back to the smoky dangerous days of the '40's and '50's, where down and dirty jazz emanated from grimy clubs in the bad parts of town. Yet at times the music is ethereal, such as the guitar tour de force "One For Lenny" that closes the CD.

The style here is reminiscent of Miles Davis' early years, ala "Walking" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" and perhaps a little Brubeck piano and sax tradeoffs.

Even rockers will appreciate the mastery on this session. "New York Stories" goes down like a cool drink on a hot summer afternoon, welcome as a surprise snowfall in July would be. 

Danny was such a great player; he often sounded like two. If I hadn't been there, I'd be looking for the open second track, particularly on One for Lenny. Having always been a fan of Five O'Clock Bells and Mo' Breau (also produced by Doyle) it was like he was channeling Lenny. Doyle was always good at throwing people together, like the night he got SRV to drop by on one of Johnny's records. But he really outdid himself on this group. Fambrough had a record on the jazz charts at the time, and Bobby Watson had obviously been around but some of the other guys were just starting out. "Who's that kid?" "That's Dewey Redman's son, man!"

You know what else? Danny was also a really nice, quiet, unassuming guy for someone so talented. The Tele did the talking. I asked him to sign my copy of Elmira St. (which lost the Grammy to Eric Johnson that year. I mean, that had to hurt! Any other year... Think about it; if he won, would he still be here today?)

Anyway, he signed it, "Thanks a mil, Danny Gatton" I wish I had that on this record, but of course it didn't exist at the time. And unfortunately, I never saw him again.

 Track Listing:

  1. Dolly's Ditty
  2. Wheel Within A Wheel
  3. Ice Maidens
  4. Out A Day
  5. Mike The Cat
  6. The Move
  7. A Clear Thought
  8. 5/4
  9. One For Lenny


Danny Gatton (guitar),
Bobby Watson (alto saxophone),
Joshua Redman (saxophone),
Roy Hargrove (trumpet),
Franck Amsallem (keyboards), 
Charles Fambrough (bass),
Yoron Israel (drums)



  2. New one for me - many thanks - excellent blog.

  3. Danny Gatton was a really nice guy, and a peerless guitarist. The way this ensemble blends is incredible. This album is on my list of all-time best 10 albums. Thanks for giving it a little love.

  4. Thank you so much!
    Just amazing!

  5. Can't find my hard copy, so many thanks for this digital backup, Crimhead420. And thanks to grumpy for ponting me in this direction...