JamBase | Club d’Elf Debuts Medeski Martin & Wood + Stevie Wonder Covers On New Year’s Eve

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Club d’Elf Debuts Medeski Martin & Wood + Stevie Wonder Covers On New Year’s Eve
By Scott Bernstein, Jan 10 2022

Club d’Elf recently rang in 2022 with a New Year’s Eve concert on December 31, 2021 at The Stone Church in Newmarket, New Hampshire. A lineup featuring founder Mike Rivard on bass and sintir, John Medeski on keyboards, Dean Johnston on drums, guitarist Dave Tronzo and trumpeter Phil Grenadier treated fans to a two-set show that included Club d’Elf debuts of Medeski Martin & Wood’s “Think” and the Stevie Wonder classic “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.”

The five-piece went heavy on covers and switched it up for the special occasion. “It’s an amazing combination when Medeski and Tronzo play together, and it’s always great to have them both on board for a d’Elf show — and this was New Year’s Eve afterall, bidding farewell to another tough year and ringing in a new one that hopefully will be a better one — so it made sense to make the song list as special as possible and throw in some stuff that would be the first time played on a D’Elf show,” Rivard told JamBase.

The collective’s funky, 17-minute version of “Think” came after Club d’Elf opened the evening with the Gnawa song “Zeed Al Maal,” Tronzo’s “Jar Of Hair” and Now I Understand gem “Hungry Ghosts.” Medeski Martin & Wood co-wrote “Think” and released a studio version on their 1996 LP Shack-man. “When I was putting together the setlist for the Stone Church show I wanted to include some songs that John and Tronzo had written, and I recalled doing that song years ago,” Rivard said in reference to a previous Guitar Sessions ensemble led by Tronzo featuring Mike and Dean as the rhythm section. “It’s such a cool tune, and I asked John if it would be alright for us to play it, and he said it would be cool, so yeah — it was kind of a no-brainer to pull it out.”

“Think” features an otherworldly solo from Medeski and is followed by Dean Johnston’s “Marchment.” Next came Club d’Elf’s interpretation of the Duke Ellington gem “Rockin’ In Rhythm” and a set-closing romp through “Berber Song.” The quintet emerged about 10 minutes before midnight and lit into live staple “Masada.” Rivard led a countdown into 2022 after which Club d’Elf delivered a sultry “You Haven’t Done Nothin.’” Medeski, who made his Stone Church debut on New Year’s Eve, and Tronzo starred on the song Stevie Wonder originally released on 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale. The instrumental cover was followed by a “Dark Fish” that spanned nearly 15 minutes.

The longest song of the evening came next with a wild cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” Club d’Elf capped the set and concert by pairing “Second Line” and Steven Bernstein’s “Cave Man.”

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