But what holds all this together? Chadbourne is no virtuoso. His efforts are all lo-fi, low-tech, and pretty much underground primitive. But thereís genius in what he does. Progressive musicians in the third quarter of the twentieth century, when Chadbourne came of age, pursued several paths toward transcendence, paths that went by the names of free jazz, experimental rock, folk. Somehow, instead of cycling through these as so many other musicians did, Chadbourne just threw them into his personal pool of experiences and continued to draw on them all and mix them together. A later influence on Chadbourne, and a heavy collaborator, was the unclassifiable New York jazz eclectic John Zorn, who showed the way toward a music in which the strands of the musical universe itself could be lines in an ongoing project of free improvisation. By grounding that idea in the common coin of country music and in the personal conviction of left-wing politics, Chadbourne brought it back down to earth.
Itís all something to think about, and to enjoy, for humor, sometimes obscene, is a significant part of the deal, and the atmosphere at a live Chadbourne concert is more rock than jazz. The best guess you can make about what will happen during Chadbourneís solo show at Kerrytown Concert House on Thursday, November 13, is that there will be a hugely diverse of group of musical numbers, probably falling under a general theme that may be political. Expect for sure that this free show will be hard to get into; WCBN, the U-Mís intrepid student-community freeform radio station, has hosted free programs of avant-garde music in much larger venues, like the U-M Museum of Art, and there hasnít been a vacant seat in the house.