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 (MMW), 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 mid-90s avant comedy Mr Show.
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 18 year history D’Elf has toured Japan five times 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 (as it did at the 2007 Festival Du Monde de Arabe in Montreal), boundaries melt away and all are drawn into the intoxicating power of the D’Elf groove. While its natural habitat is playing live (with 8 double-live CDs in its catalog), the group also embraces the more sculpted sound the studio makes possible.
The latest CD, Electric Moroccoland/So Below , drew glowing reviews from PRI‘s The World, Voice Of America, and Afropop Worldwide for its bold synthesis of Moroccan traditional music and electronic, dubbed-out funk, and rose to #1 on the Relixchart. A double-CD set that features over 20 musicians (including a chief of the Dagbon people of Ghana, and some of the last recorded performances of Sandman’s) it most fully captures the full range of the band’s music, from Gnawa to Squarepusher-influenced drum’n’bass. While primarily instrumental, Gnawa legend Hassan Hakmoun contributes vocals to Cream‘s “Sunshine Of Your Love”, and Fribgane sings “Ghir Khoudouni” by Moroccan legends Nass El Ghiwane. The band’s 2013 live release, Fire In The Brain (Live at Berklee) drew glowing praise from AllAboutJazz.com, who compared it to King Crimson’s epic Starless & Bible Black. The band toured South America in February 2016, performing at Ecuador Jazz 2016.
As Above: Live at the Lizard Lounge (2000)
Vassar Chapel 02/26/2001 (2001)
Athens, GA 03/28/2002 (2002)
NYC 04/20/2000 (2003)
Live: Tonic, NYC 5/26/2004 (2004)
Gravity All Nonsense Now (2005)
100 Years of Flight (2005)
Now I Understand (2006)
Electric Moroccoland/So Below (2011)
Fire In The Brain (Live at Berklee) (2013)
Electric Moroccoland/So Below Chart Position: Relix #1, CMJ Jazz #2,
CMJ New World #4
Best Jazz Act, Boston Music Awards, 2007
Best Jazz Act, Best of Boston, Boston Magazine, 2004
Phoenix Editors and Readers Poll, 2001
Best Jam Band, Phoenix Editors and Readers Poll, 2001
Best DJ/Electronica Act, FNX Best Music Poll, 2001
Best Cutting Edge Band, Best of Boston, Boston Magazine, 1998