Special anniversary shows featuring John Medeski Feb 9 (Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA) and Feb 16 (The Falcon, Marlboro, NY)
“Club d’Elf sounds like the lovechild of Pink Floyd and George Clinton, dropped in Marrakesh…some deeply psychedelic music.” – Marlon Bishop, WNYC
(Boston, MA) Moroccan-dosed dub-jazz collective Club d’Elf celebrates its 20th anniversary with shows February 9 at The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA and at The Falcon in Marlboro, NY on February 16, featuring keyboardist John Medeski. February also marks the release of Deluxe Anniversary digital editions of Electric Moroccoland and So Below, originally released in 2011 as a double CD. Newly recorded and unreleased tracks will be included. In the Spring the band will launch its first crowd-funding campaign for a new studio album.
It was a cold February night at the Lizard Lounge in 1998 when Mike Rivard called upon friends from various bands he played with (including Mark Sandman‘s Hypnosonics) to explore composed grooves in the spirit of Bill Laswell’s Axiom-based projects and the underground “illbient” and live drum’n’bass scenes that were happening in New York City. This one show begat a residency, and Club d’Elf was born. The night caught on fast with local audiences drawn to the sinewy trance grooves, anything-goes spirit, and constantly-changing roster of guest musicians. Over the years a mind-boggling array of special guests have joined the “club”, including Sandman, DJ Logic, Ryan Montbleau, Marco Benevento, Hassan Hakmoun and Reeves Gabrels among many others. Surrounding bassist/composer Rivard and drummer Dean Johnston is an ever-changing constellation of creative improvisors from the jazz, DJ, rock & world music scenes of Boston and NYC, as well as international guests. Each Club d’Elf performance features a different line-up, creating a unique experience for audience and musicians alike.
Sandman provided the original encouragement, as well as giving his blessing to the band’s name. “Mark was busy with Morphine and tired of me bugging him about getting gigs for the Hypnosonics”, Rivard relates. “He said, ‘you need to start your own band’, so I thought ‘why not?’ I had a few names I was kicking around, with ‘Club d’Elf’ being a tribute to psychedelic avatar Terence McKenna who spoke of ‘self-transforming machine elves’, as well as referring to ‘Extreme Low Frequencies’. If you say the name correctly it sounds like ‘clubbed elf’, which I liked because it suggests something more sinister than some merry elves running around. Since Mark liked it I thought it was best to stick with that!”, he laughs. “I pitched the idea to my friend Billy Beard, who books the Lizard, and he gave me a few nights to try it out. He was particularly enthusiastic about the rotating cast with special guests aspect, as that would help keeping people interested and coming back”.
Two of the guests who have appeared most with the band over the years – John Medeski and Duke Levine – will join the band for these 20th anniversary shows at The Lizard. Levine was featured at that first show in February 1998, with Medeski appearing a month later. Both are also featured on the band’s latest release, Live at Club Helsinki (2017), as well as numerous other Club d’Elf albums (the band has twelve releases, including three recorded live at the Lizard). In addition to some surprise guests, long-time “core” member DJ Mister Rourke will add his surreal hip hop and psychedelic sounds to the mix. “John and I were tight from our days touring with the Either/Orchestra and he was a natural choice, given that we share a similar aesthetic, and he intuitively knows just what to add to the music. Duke and I go back almost as far, when we toured and recorded with The Story and Jonatha Brooke. It’s a super rare quality in guitarists where you can identify who it is in several notes, but Duke is certainly one of that breed. Rourke has been with the band since 2002, and its safe to say that he’s our ‘secret weapon’, dropping just the right samples and beat matching with Dean like they share one brain!”
Reviewers endeavor to define the band’s multi-genre sound, which draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles. Time Out New York describes it as “The roaring avant-funk of electric-era Miles (and) the legato drift of the Grateful Dead…Manic Berber bop, hypnotic Moroccan Gnawa and blissful electronica are usually present in the mix as well…at its peaks conjuring a Derek and the Dominoes floating on a cough-syrup current. Heady music that doesn’t neglect the tail.” “My intention was to create something that was wide open and reflected all of my various musical interests”, explains Rivard. “It’s been both a blessing and a curse, as the audiences usually don’t care about labeling it, but its made promoting the band challenging”, he continues. The Boston Globe called the band’s music “the music of dreams”, which comes pretty close. Derived from ancient sources, trance forms the central core of the Club d’Elf aesthetic, unifying the various genres the band has absorbed.
The band has been invited to play festivals as far away as Japan and Ecuador, but always loves coming home to The Lizard. Of its local audience, Rivard draws a comparison to village musicians in other cultures: “In a lot of the places I’ve traveled, such as Morocco, there’s not the same separation between performer and audience as there is in the West, and it’s more ceremonial, with the music being part of the overall fabric of the community. I’m especially drawn to music like Gnawa, where there’s a strong healing element, of providing service to the community. I see a lot of the same faces showing up show after show, and it feels like we’re helping some of these folks connect with their happy place, and get through the reality of a world that, lets face it – can be pretty hard. Losing track of time is one of the best things we can do to stay sane, and thats what trance music is all about”.
Of the new release and plans for 2018, Rivard says, “We’re excited to go back into the studio and record a new album in the spring, and this will be the first time we’ve reached out to our audience to help us with a crowd-funded project. We have some amazing, creative and just plain crazy folks in our audience, and it’ll be fun to get them involved in the process. I see it as an opportunity to connect with our fans in a way we haven’t before, and the interaction will bring good things to the music. I’m also looking forward to releasing some new tracks as part of the 20th Anniversary Deluxe digital editions of Electric Moroccoland and So Below, which is the fastest turn around for new music that we’ve had up til now. Some of these tracks were literally just finished this week, so they’re hot off the press. These albums give the best overall representation of the band’s sound, with over 25 musicians from the course of the band’s career contributing. Its a good close to this chapter of the band, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.” The band has numerous festival dates lined up for spring/summer and is slated to appear with Medeski in New Orleans during Jazz Fest 2018.
See Club d’Elf Live:
Friday February 9, 2018
CLUB d’ELF with special guests JOHN MEDESKI & DUKE LEVINE
The Lizard Lounge
FIRST SHOW (7:30 doors / 8:30 show)
$20 advance / $25 at the door
SECOND SHOW (10:30 doors / 11:30 show)
$20 advance / $25 at the door
Friday February 16, 2018
CLUB d’ELF with special guests JOHN MEDESKI & WILL BERNARD