“Crushed between the borders of Morocco, jam band land and the kingdom of avant-garde jazz lies Club d’Elf…James Brown-meets-Sun-Ra.” – Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald
“Sounds like the lovechild of Pink Floyd and George Clinton, dropped in Marrakesh…some deeply psychedelic music.” – Marlon Bishop, WNYC
Club d’Elf is an ever-shifting group of musicians fiercely dedicated to “the groove”, revolving around the foundation of bassist/leader Mike Rivard. Consisting of some of the most sought-after players from the jazz, DJ, rock & world music scenes of Boston & NYC, each show features a different line-up, with Rivard and drummer Dean Johnston at the core. Guitars, turntables, Fender Rhodes, laptops, horns, tablas and all manner of exotic instruments flow in and out of the mix, along with guests such as John Medeski & Billy Martin (Medeski Martin & Wood), DJ Logic, Marc Ribot, Skerik, Steven Bernstein, Ryan Montbleau and Marco Benevento, creating a unique experience for every performance. Informed as much by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick‘s ideas of shifting reality and parallel universes as by Miles Davis & Fela Kuti, the band draws inspiration from many sources, including neo-psychedelic avatar Terence McKenna and avant garde comedy troupe The Firesign Theater.
Formed in 1998 by Rivard with the encouragement of Morphine‘s Mark Sandman (who guested with the group until his death in ’99), the music draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles, including jazz, hip hop, electronica, avant garde, prog-rock and dub. Under the tutelage of member Brahim Fribgane (who hails from Casablanca) the band absorbed Moroccan trance influences and frequently adds this element to the mix. Audiences of all persuasions are drawn to Fribgane’s mesmerizing oud stylings and Rivard’s commanding playing of the Moroccan sintir, a 3 string bass lute used by the Gnawa people of Morocco, a mystical brotherhood of trance-healers. Derived from such ancient sources as these, trance forms the central core of the Club d’Elf aesthetic, unifying all of the various genres the band has absorbed.
The band’s bi-weekly residency at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA has become the stuff of legend, and over the course of it’s 19 year history D’Elf has toured internationally (most recently making its South American debut at Ecuador Jazz 2016) and played clubs and festivals throughout the North and Southeast US. Equally at home playing late-night festival sets for the rave/Burner crowd as it is for a predominately Arabic audience, boundaries melt away and all are drawn into the intoxicating power of the D’Elf groove. In January 2017 the band released its latest live album, Live at Club Helsinki, with the music visiting touchstones as disparate as John Cage, Studio One, 70s era Miles Davis, Moroccan Gnawa and drum’n’bass. AllAboutJazz.com said “Live At Club Helsinki is one of those rare recordings that points in a viable direction for the future of creative music and its’ near two-hour running time goes by in a flash…an accessible blend of styles that is unmatched by any current offerings. Highly recommended.”
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