Some say free improvisation should never be altered and records stick as close as possible to the performance. Eugene Chadbourne does not agree. For him, as long as the album is good, who cares? Honestly, after listening to Ayler Undead, who could disagree with him? This is a composite session. The project itself was put together for an appearance in Cologne, Germany, in May 2000. Parts of the soundcheck/rehearsal for this first encounter between "the Doctor," Kletka Red bassist Joe Williamson, and drummer Uli Jenessen were recorded, along with the subsequent show. But since the guitarist likes to turn his amplifier volume way up, he was not miked and thus his instrument not plugged into the mixing console, resulting in a flawed recording. No problem; Chadbourne recorded acoustic guitar and banjo overdubs back home and added two solo pieces, a Hendrix-inspired rendition of "La Marseillaise" (Ayler was quite fond of French military marches), and his own take on the much-covered "Ghosts." The overdubs did not get rid of the electric guitar played at the show and picked up by the drum microphones, so often this trio sounds like a badly mixed quartet. The Doctor's fans will find his spirit and usual "Mr. Fix It" aesthetic. Most important is the group's renditions of Ayler's songs, especially "Prophecy" and "Omega Is the Alpha." The emphasis remains on the psychedelic and the free jazz aspects of the music, illustrating the jazzman's influence on the modern-day maverick. Williamson and Jenessen play more than rhythm section duties; they actually dive into the material with heart. As unorthodox as it may be, Ayler Undead is one hell of a tribute.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture