Patriot Ledger | Chad Berndtson | January 7, 2017
Now entering its 19th year, Club d’Elf is a Boston-area institution. Its regular Friday night shows [every other Friday, next show Feb 17, 2017] at Cambridge’s intimate Lizard Lounge attract some of the city’s – and the country’s – top musicians as part of a rotating cast of collaborators.
‘Live at Club Helsinki,” the new release from Club d’Elf, is that rarest of documents: something that captures a highly improvisational band working its magic and somehow bottles the feeling of something that, by definition, is ephemeral – that was meant to be heard in the moment.
For longtime d’Elf fans, it’s a beautiful listen, captured at the Hudson, N.Y., location of former Great Barrington stronghold Club Helsinki in 2012. For newcomers, it’s a worthy introduction to what’s made the group a cult favorite among lovers of improv and the band’s heady melange of music styles, from Moroccan gnawa to psychedelic rock, hip-hop and groovy acid jazz.
Now entering its 19th year, Club d’Elf is a Boston-area institution. Its regular Friday night shows at Cambridge’s intimate Lizard Lounge attract some of the city’s – and the country’s – top musicians as part of a rotating cast of collaborators, and it’s still expanding, having recently played its first shows in South America and looking to explore other moves beyond its New England enclave.
The Club Helsinki show featured Rivard alongside heavyweights like John Medeski, Duke Levine, Brahim Fribgane, DJ Mister Rourke and Milton resident Dean Johnston, several of whom will join Club d’Elf lineups for a series of CD release shows this month. Both Medeski and Levine are in the lineup for next Friday’s show at the Columbus Theater in Providence, and guitar wizard David Tronzo is aboard for a Jan. 27 show at the Red Room at Cafe 939 in Boston. (Club d’Elf will also resume its regular every-other-Friday residency at the Lizard Lounge on Feb. 17.)
“I try to create lineups for which different personalities can get together and react well,” said Rivard, who plays acoustic and electric basses as well as the three-stringed sintir. “It’s like a tribe, a family, and my goal all along has been to create a repertoire – a book of music that, like in the jazz tradition where there are standards, everyone knows the material inside and out and you can go places with it.”
Rivard, a Berklee College of Music graduate and member of the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as numerous other local and international associations, said the biggest difference between D’Elf collectives now vs. even a half-decade ago is the telepath-like connection the musicians can make with one another when the music is at its strongest.
Rivard and drummer Johnston are Club D’Elf’s consistent members, and the interplay between the two is the core of the ensemble, no matter who else is playing.