Boston Sunday Globe November 22, 1998 City Weekly ON THE RISE Band’s members, music in state of flux

 In Press

Bassist Mike Rivard is a pro. He’s worked with a long list of top names like Paula Cole, the Story, and Mark Sandman (of Morphine), to name a few. When it came time to start his own band, though, he faced a frustrating problem: How could he ever include all the people he enjoyed playing with? So instead, he formed a club.

“I call it Club d’Elf,” says Rivard. “It’s really a band masquerading as a recurring night at a club. We provide an interesting musical bed, and I bring in other musicians so it is a different thing each time. This way I don’t get bored.”

Club d’Elf runs loosely two Thursdays a month at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. The core band comprises Rivard on bass, Jerry Leake on tablas and percussion, Jere Faison on sampler, and Erik Kerr on drums. The group lays down a hypnotic groove, often incorporating elements of hip-hop, funk, electronica, and free jazz as well as Moroccan and West African trance traditions.

In the last year, eclectic players like Roger Miller (Binary System, ex-Mission of Burma), John Medeski (of Medeski, Martin, and Wood), saxophonist Dana Colley (of Morphine), Brahim Fribgane (playing doumbek, an hourglass-shaped drum, and oud, which resembles a lute, from Hassan Hakmoun’s New York-based Moroccan ensemble) and others have added their sounds as guest artists.

“The idea is to develop a pool of musicians,” says Rivard. “You just have to play once, and from then on you are a member.”

While the sound of Club d’Elf is certainly esoteric and unusual, Rivard doesn’t feel the music is that far out of the mainstream.

“People’s ears are opening up to new sounds,” he says. “And there is something to be said for having this kind of groove, trance, and electronica done live. Groups like the Chemical Brothers, when they play live, are just a couple guys up there with samplers. We give people something to look at.”

There is also a fairly unusual experimental approach to the use of non-Western sounds, mixing elements as seemingly disparate as Gnawan mystical sufi from Morocco with Indian classical music.

“It’s all about finding the parallels, the common trance elements in music from different parts of the world,” says Rivard. While mostly instrumental, depending on the guest artist, Club d’Elf has also worked with singers, such as Paul Stiller, formerly of the a cappella group Vox One, who likes to experiment with heavily ambient electronic effects added to his voice, and Sandman, whose low key style of singing is distinctive in any context.
-David Wildman

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