Northeast Performer September 1998 Club D’elf, 1st set Lizard Lounge Cambridge, MA July 30th, 1998
The “All Star Game” Effect – First observed in certain high-energy fusion groups of the ’70s, this phenomenon typically occurs when a collection of highly talented individual musicians play together in an open ended format. Its results resemble that of a basketball all star contest, where the individual members display brilliant moments but lack the togetherness that makes the performance special.
This is the danger of a night like this. It sounded like a dream. Boston based bass guru Mike Rivard assembles some of the area’s master musicians – whirlwind Jerry Leake on tablas and percussion, eclectic electric violinist Mat Maneri, groove meister Erik Kerr, effect aficionado Paul Stewart – along with New York’s finest, John Medeski and DJ Logic, and immerses them in a trancy cesspool. All of this smolders at the Boston area’s most happening venue. The night promised a musical depth and virtuosity that Boston clubs rarely see – and a potential all-star Game.
The winds that carry the names Medeski and Logic travel fast. An hour before the performance’s start, a line of 70 people already stretched back down the sidewalk. The dim swankiness of the Lizard Lounge pulsed with a hundred or so people, all jockeying for tables and optimal viewpoints. The stage area was impressive – tablas, shakers, keyboards, effects, upright bass, drumset, turntables, samplers. Anticipation — and heat – hung heavily in the air.Rivard led his troops to their instruments and quickly addressed the All Star Game issue. First a looped bassline, played with mallets. Then a sample appeared, joined by other atmospheric elements from Medeski, Leake, Logic, Maneri, Hall and Stewart. And there it was – a trancy cesspool, nothing extraneous or outstanding, proficiency showing itself off musically instead of technically. Kerr steps in with appropriate funkiness. The sporadic fill whipped past and landed smack on beat one, no over the barline craziness that would detract stylistically.
Medeski proved his draw, sliding strange chords into the wash. He would drop an obtuse chord voicing and change the character of the song. Early in the night, when the playing was uneasy and everyone was still feeling each other out, a Medeski solo raked the air and put enough energy behind the band to solidity the performance. Add DJ Logic to the mix, who would spin the perfect thing at the perfect time at the perfect volume. Again, whereas either player could have decided to dominate the evening, they added themselves tastefully into the music.
There was a definite progression in the playing as the night rolled along. The beginning saw Kerr settling into the looped samples, Rivard adjusting to his “conducting persona,” Maneri (who blistered several solos throughout the set) tiptoeing into the fray. By the midnight hour, they’d swung, stomped and thoroughly rocked.