Unclean Scene

The players in Dirty Cello are classically trained, but they bring an entirely different ethic to the stage - including the ability to quickly improvise lines - inspired by other genres.

Dirty Cello has all kinds of connotations, some even provocative. But cellist Rebecca Roudman didn’t intend any of that.

“When I play classical cello I think of it as such a clean way to play the instrument,” she says. “I was going for the opposite.”

Classically trained, Roudman is still a tenured member of both the Oakland and Santa Rosa symphony orchestras. But somehow that wasn’t enough.

“I like classical, but it’s not my favorite music,” she says. “I was never as passionate about classical as my friends and fellow students were.” Instead, Roudman found inspiration in blues, bluegrass and rock. She answered a Craigslist ad from a blues guitarist who was “looking for a cellist who can improvise.” Enter fellow classical student Jason Eckl, who at the time was part of a cello and flute duo with Roudman. He convinced her that she could do it. Onstage improvising for the first time, Roudman was transfixed.

“In classical, the audience is quiet. There’s never any applause for a solo,” she says. “When I got applause in the middle of the tune for my very first solo, it was both energizing and enlightening.”

To go with his flute, Eckl learned guitar, and Roudman also sings and writes the group’s originals. She usually plays cello standing up, creating a veritable frenzy of improvised lines more akin to an Irish fiddler or an electric guitarist.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Roudman says. “We’ll be playing favorites of ours like ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia,’ ‘Purple Haze’ and Clapton’s version of ‘Crossroads’ along with some of our own tunes. If you’re expecting a calm classical cello concert, well, I’m afraid that’s not what we’ll be doing.”

DIRTY CELLO 2pm Sunday, Oct. 27. The Lab, 3728 The Barnyard, Suite G-23, Carmel. $15. info@thelabarts.com, dirtycello.com

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