March 30, 2011 Philly Blurbs Concert Preview

 In Press

Club d’Elf will bring its eclectic musical mix to World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on April 8.

The rotating cast of musicians, led by Boston’s Mike Rivard, blends dub, funk, jazz and trance with influences from North Africa, and is touring in support of new double album “Electric Moroccoland/So Below.”

On “Electric Moroccoland,” the group is influenced by Morocco’s rich musical heritage and Rivard’s dedication to the three-stringed, camel-skinned, bass-like sintir. On the second disc, “So Below,” Rivard and company de- and reconstruct musical forms from funk and dub to jazz, creating an anything-goes exploration that holds true to the spirit of trance and the affinity that connects Club D’Elf’s diverse players and their varying styles.

“The crux of Moroccan music is trance,” Rivard explains. “Trance as a quality in music has always attracted me, whether it’s an extended James Brown cut, or something by Fela or Steve Reich. I’ve always sought out music that allows you to forget where and who you are and to break out of the mind’s constant chatter.”

Rivard’s fascination with Moroccan, and specifically Gnawan music, began thanks to a fellow traveler in trance, the late Mark Sandman of the legendary indie rock band Morphine. One night, Sandman threw on a CD by Hassan Hakmoun, Gnawa musician extraordinaire. After begging to borrow the album, Rivard went home and listened to it over and over again.

“I played it constantly, and it became the soundtrack for my life,” he says. “That’s when I dedicated myself to playing sintir.”

The three-stringed deep-voiced instrument forms the foundation of ceremonies among the Gnawa, whose ancestors came as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa 500 years ago. Their music blends animism and Sufism in rituals designed to induce trance, to contact spirits and to heal.

Club D’Elf’s own music thrives on improvisatory juxtaposition.

“We mine contradictions, combining things that don’t necessarily go together. To that end, we’ll mash up jazz saxophonist Joe Maneri with rock guitarist Reeves Gabrels, or Moroccan strings, Indian tabla and turntables,” says Rivard.

What brings all the disparate, dynamic elements together is the magnetism of trance, which not only mesmerizes the listener but transcends barriers.

“Our music is about surrender and giving in to something more powerful than one’s self, and as corny as it sounds, really feeling love for your brothers,” says Rivard.

John Medeski, Brahim Fribgane, Mister Rourke, Dean Johnston and additional guests will join him at the show Upstairs at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St.

Show time: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $18 (day of show, $20).

Information: 215-222-1400;

Recent Posts