75 Dollar Bill will bridge improvisation and tradition at the Random Tea Room tomorrow night

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75 Dollar Bill | photo by Damian Calvo
75 Dollar Bill | photo by Damian Calvo

There’s a definite space where the noisy drones of experimental improvised music and the hypnotizing grooves of traditional musics cross paths. That’s the domain where 75 Dollar Bill can be found. The duo of guitarist Che Chen and percussionist Rick Brown are inspired by Mauritanian music played by Moorish griots at weddings and other special occasions, and Chen has studied with one of the masters of that music, guitarist Jheich Ould Chighaly. The pair will play the Random Tea Room tomorrow night, on a Fire Museum-presented bill that also includes People Skills and the duo of guitarists Drew Gardner and Jesse Sheppard.

But that tradition is only a leaping-off point, and while the music that Chen and Brown make could certainly pass for native folk music, there’s a rawness and looseness to their sound that takes it out of that realm and into something that could be described as virtuosic primitivism. It moves from North Africa to the American Delta, plying a ough-hewn blues that hasn’t shaken the dirt from its roots. Chen plays a cheap Japanese guitar that gives his spiraling lines a tinny, constricted feel, as if heard from a distance, snaking around a few corners from some indeterminate space. And Brown plays homemade instruments that at some times provide rudimentary rhythmic accompaniment and at others seem to assault and distort the grooves.  Check out a video below and get more information on their show here.

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