The Boston Globe
Living/Arts Section (Feb 7,1998)
Mike Rivard stages a jam at Lizard Lounge
(By Paul Robicheau)

 In Press

CAMBRIDGE – Local bassist Mike Rivard envisioned Club d’Elf, an event staged at the Lizard Lounge Thursday, as a “live remix session” for rehearsed grooves – in the experimental style of Bill Laswell’s avant-world label Axiom or New York’s loft scene.

It was also a cool exuse for a jam with with such other musical scenesters as guitarist Duke Levine and members of Morphine and Either/Orchestra with whom Rivard plays in the Hypnosonics.

Rivard, whose resume also includes Paula Cole and Jonatha Brooke, didn’t call it a jam. He just wanted improvised iceing for grooves he arranged with Hypnosonics drummer J. Hilt, Natraj percussionist Jerry Leake, and keyboardist Jere Faison.

“It’s the attack of the rhythm section,” said Rivard, who called the progam Club d’Elf for two reasons. ELF means “Extreme Low Frequency” ie; bass. And he enjoys neopsychedelic author Terence McKenna, who “speaks of contact with hyperdimesional elflike entities,” said Rivard, adding of the music, “We’re not talking just happy, mischievuos elves. We’re clubbing some of those elves. It’s definetely a dark, ominous thing.”

Well, that was before the music began. In reality, Club d’Elf was, well, like a jam session – albeit a well-grounded one. The dimly lit room had the right ambience, though not a sound system with the bottom end for dark, heavy bass, (Rivard also favored acoustic bass, lending an acid-jazz slant).

Most of the night’s 15 minute range pieces started with Rivard laying down a bass part to Hilt’s disciplined beat, Leake’s counterrhthyms on clay pot, shakers, or tabla (best heard during breaks, being before drowned out by emerging instruments) and Faison’s sporadic toppings. Those included vocal samples such as “The ceremony is about to begin.”

Then Levine sat down (breaking the firat set’s tenative start with brittle, hanging notes ala Ry Cooder), before the arrival of horns and Mark Sandman, who acted as human sampler, emitting droll lines like, “Men, they’re all the same.”

Seperately and together, Tom Halter (flugelhorn), Russ Gershon (soprano and tenor sax), and Dana Colley (baritone sax), added tonal and melodic contrast. And they thrived in a second set tilted toward jazz. Halter and Gershon parlayed the droning start of bonafide tune “Mr. Joybox” into whalelike whines, while Colley probed a Miles Davis-style groove with Rivard. When Either/Orchestra alumnus John Dirac spelled Levine on guitar, Rivard pushed the tempo with a walking bass line.

In addition to bass, Rivard directed musicians with hand signals – though Hilt broke form with some imprompu flailing near the end. But long before that, Club d’Elf had become a jam session – better suited to a foot-tapping trance, but not that unlike a Hypnosonics show. Who said elves can’t have fun?

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