Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

75 Dollar Bill Little Big Band: Live at Tubby's [Grapefruit, 2020]
Recorded in Kingston, New York, on March 1, 2020, at the end of a northeastern tour and the beginning of Covid's NYC rampage, this is the most widely heralded of 75 Dollar Bill's 10 Bandcamp-available recordings, which have multiplied now that guitarist Che Chen, rhythm master Rick Brown, and associates still don't know when they'll be able to occupy the same room again, leaving them to ponder their body of work instead. This oeuvre includes 2015's previously Consumer-Guided Wooden Bag (promising), 2016's previously Consumer-Guided Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock (fulfilling), and 2019's previously Consumer-Guided I Was Real (intermittently exalting). Three of Wood / Metal's six tracks are on this one, somewhat less kempt as you'd expect but no less self-aware or welcome melodically, although not like the 21-minute onetime I Was Real highlight "Like Like Laundry," where Cheryl Kingan echoes Chen's tune on broad, bracing, sour baritone sax, not unlike drummer Jim Pugliese adding articulated fills to the beats Brown extracts from his plywood box. There's even a stealth cover designated "F. & N.," the impromptu theme song to Ornette Coleman's 1970 Prince Street jam album Friends and Neighbors. That's the spirit, everyone agrees. A-