Eugene Chadbourne

Boogie with the Hook

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This record of zany duets is among Eugene Chadbourne's wildest and dearest recordings, featuring selections from over two decades. These duets with Han Bennink, Derek Bailey, the late Charles Tyler, John Zorn, and others, showcase the woolliest side of Chadbourne's woolly playing and his dodging all over the musical and historical map. The first track is an acoustic version of John Lee Hooker's "Whiskey and Women," accompanied by Bennink playing a pizza box with brushes, a giant bass autoharp played with drumsticks, and, of course, a drum kit. Chadbourne plays the tune straight (for him) at the beginning, even getting all the words right, but then veers off his National Steel onto a "communist" five-string banjo, and he and Bennink run the course, carrying the off-meter 12-bar blues as off-world as they can go, laughing all the way. Next up is Derek Bailey and Chadbourne on two selections. The first, "In Search of Carl La Fong," is filled with commentary by both men. Bailey's guitar and Chadbourne's electric rake and electrified banjo trip and slip all over one another here, with respect and purpose, of course, but nonetheless sloppily. It's a rousing series of musical maneuvers at over nine minutes. When Bennink and Chadbourne reunite, it's a darker, more percussive show: feedback from rhythm and lead instruments becomes the M.O. by which they create something resembling a melodic idea from the wreckage. And it's quite beautiful, as Gershwin's songbook comes through as the melodic framework for the improvisation. The work with Tyler, "In Between Comme C and Come Saw," is balls-out space improv, though the master saxist uses his baritone in striking ways not usually becoming of the instrument itself. It becomes a kind of clogged, scraped, razor-voiced bell in the tower of noise. Tyler draws microtones out of the instrument we have literally never heard before, and Chadbourne is content to lend idiomatic support to this gracious unfolding. "Red Lightning, Pt. 1" by Chadbourne and Zorn is hilarious. This is more in line with Zorn's Classic Guide to Strategy than anything else, in both spirit and execution -- though there are no duck calls credited on this recording. There is space here, sometimes long periods of it, where what is happening between the pair is not readily apparent; there is plenty of trickery and tomfoolery as well, leaving the listener guffawing in more than a few places. As usual, there is only one problem with the record: the sound quality is barely above, and perhaps not even above, an audience recording of a bootleg tape. In places, the stereo has to be turned up over halfway just to hear the guitar. Leo Feigin's taste and vision may be admirable, but his execution of projects can leave a lot to be desired.

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