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Eugene Chadbourne: The Hills Have Jazz

Jerry D'Souza By

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Among the interesting anecdotes in the liner notes to The Hills Have Jazz, Eugene Chadbourne includes one about Wes Craven and his movie Cursed. Chadbourne was on the set, and his observations are both acute and humorous. When this record was to be released, Chadbourne dedicated it to Craven, whose movie actually lived up to its name, but not in the way he imagined.

Chadbourne's music is quirky, not limited by the straitjacket of categorization. He fills it with his fancy, a raft of ideas that float around but coalesce into recognizable form. He picks his notes in random sparseness, he slaps a run of chords, and he dives into swing, only to break up the tempo and then drive it in different directions. He is unpredictable, as this album proves all over again.

At the outset, Chadbourne comes up with "Good Bait," a very accessible take on which he actually plays the melody, improvisation being the domain of Brian Walsh on tenor saxophone. The band is pared to a duo for Roscoe Mitchell's "Noonah," just him and Richie West on drums. Chadbourne bends his strings, plucks on the bass notes, and rents the melody asunder. West keeps the time odd, his lithe touch and sense of rhythm bringing in a solid construct.

The sextet appears on two tracks, bringing a thicker texture to the music. "17 West" chugs along, led by Dan Clucas on flute and Walsh on tenor, who work in consonance and at odds with each other as Chadbourne boogies in. It all breaks loose and free as the band congregates to disperse form. "Space Jazz Reverie" is the funnel for Bill Barret, who twists and turns in the labyrinths forged by his harmonica, quite the contrast to the fat tones of the cornet that follow. Chardbourne lets loose a fusillade of notes, sound weaving unusual patterns, making for an elating experience.


Track Listing: Good Bait; Heavy Spirits; Saturn; 17 West; Noonah; Space Jazz Reverie; Miss Toni; Miles' Mode

Personnel: Eugene Chadbourne (acoustic guitar, banjo), Richie West (drums), Brian Walsh (tenor saxophone), Carey Fosse (electric guitar), Bill Barrett (harmonica), Dan Clucas (cornet, flute)

Title: The Hills Have Jazz | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Boxholder Records

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