Danny Gatton

Untouchable

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This album documents another fascinating, if overlooked aspect of Danny Gatton's musical career: Funhouse, his mid- to late-'80s sextet which also included trumpeter Chris Battistone and tenor saxophonists Phil Berlin and Bruce Swaim, rounded off by drummer Barry Hart and longtime bassist John Previti. The tapes had remained unmixed after the guitarist signed to Elektra Records, according to his mother, Norma, who released them on her NRG label after her son's 1994 death. Other Gatton albums may be more cohesive, but Untouchable actually works nicely as a companion to the Portraits collection. The result is a typically diverting Gatton free-for-all; the first three tracks alone steer the listener through moody bop ("Poinciana," "One for Lenny's"), a tribute to late jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, and a storming R&B tune ("Ain't That Peculiar," which features a rousing Tommy Lepson vocal). The anything-goes atmosphere continues with "Stand by My Side," a soul rave-up written with longtime friend and vocalist Billy Windsor; a typically fleet-fingered rave-up on "Stumblin'"; and a shuffle through "Sweet Georgia Brown" (recorded live and slower than the up-tempo Harlem Globetrotters theme rendition). For good measure, there's "Deep Purple," a souvenir from Gatton's famous December 31, 1978, Washington, D.C., gig with his Redneck Jazz Explosion ensemble -- although "Gold Rush"'s swing from country to pure guitar pyrotechnic fury and back again is the undoubted highlight, if you could choose just one. But that's hardly possible with Danny Gatton, as the inspired interplay with his hornmen on Nelson Riddle's "Untouchables" theme shows. Trends be damned: wherever his fingers flew, he expected his listeners to follow. If nothing else, this release shows why the major-label world had difficulty containing that vision, but their loss is the listener's gain.

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