Enigmatic Boston-based music collective Club d’Elf celebrates 25th-anniversary w/ new U.S. tour dates & digital re-release of their debut album As Above
For twenty-five years now, Boston-based dub-jazz collective Club d’Elf has been helping audiences lose track of time while creating mesmerizing musical chimeras that weave their distinct, Moroccan folk-infused trance with elements from an astonishing spectrum of other styles, including jazz, hip-hop, electronica, avant-garde, prog-rock, and dub.
To celebrate its silver anniversary, Club d’Elf is announcing a string of U.S. tour dates in February and March (see below) and the accompanying digital re-release of their storied debut album As Above ( dropping February 8, 2023).
With a core group currently consisting of founder/bassist/composer Mike Rivard, drummer Dean Johnston, Moroccan oud player Brahim Fribgane, and Mister Rourke on turntables — every Club d’Elf performance and recording over the past two-and-a-half decades has featured an ever-evolving and revolving cast of players, drawn from a who’s who list of the most sought after and creative improvisers from the jazz, DJ, rock & world music scenes of Boston, NYC and beyond.
Originally released exclusively on CD in 2000, As Above will now be available for the first time ever on Spotify and all major digital streaming platforms. Recorded live over the course of six performances in 1999/2000 at Cambridge’s legendary subterranean venue The Lizard Lounge, the album’s twenty tracks eternalize the early days of Club d’Elf‘s development while immortalizing some amazing musical pairings — including the historic meeting of Reeves Gabrels (The Cure) & Joe Maneri — one of Rivard’s favorite mash-ups in the band’s history.
“It’s always been our style to remix the music with players who come from distinctly different backgrounds,” says Rivard, “and this was one of the coolest examples of that. Reeves was playing with David Bowie at the time and Joe was a legend in the free jazz and microtonal scenes. They couldn’t have been further apart musically speaking, but their openness to each other and deep listening helped to create something that defies categorization.”
In addition to Rivard (on electric and acoustic basses), the eclectic cast of collaborators on As Above includes DJ Logic (turntables), Kenwood Dennard (drums), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Duke Levine (guitar), Alain Mallet (keyboards), Mat Maneri (electric violin), Joe Maneri (tenor sax, clarinet), Erik Kerr (drums), Brahim Fribgane (oud, doumbek and qaraqab), and Dr. Didg (didgeridoo) amongst others.
Club d’Elf began in 1998 at the Lizard Lounge as a kind of controlled jam session, featuring Rivard’s friends and associates from various bands. Mark Sandman (Morphine) was an important catalyst, suggesting that it was time for Rivard to form his own band. An in-demand sideman, Rivard had earned notice playing bass with Jonatha Brooke & The Story, Paula Cole, Either/Orchestra, and a Sandman side project, Hypnosonics. Rivard envisioned a band that wasn’t built around the specificity and spotlight that frontmen usually demand, but one that would facilitate and follow spontaneous cinematic soundscapes created by the unique contribution of each member of the collective. Out of the original D’Elf jam pool emerged a core group, usually augmented by one or two other players from a rotating cast. (for a comprehensive list of rotating Club d’Elf cast members and special guests over the years, go here).
The As Above digital re-release and the upcoming tour both follow fast on the heels of the April 2022 release of You Never Know, the collective’s 3rd studio album (and its first since 2011). Touting an impressive lineup including John Medeski, Brahim Fribgane, Duke Levine, David Fiuczynski, Kevin Barry, Paul Schultheis, Dean Johnston, and Mister Rourke, the well-received album reached #2 on the Relix Chart. The album features Rivard’s commanding playing of the sintir, a three-stringed bass lute used in trance-healing ceremonies in Morocco. While the first half of YNK pays homage to some of the collective’s primary influences, with renditions of Gnawa and Sufi folk tunes and covers from Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Moroccan band Nass el-Ghiwane, and Frank Zappa — the second half of the album consists of meditative and trance-laden original compositions inspired by a long, dark period in Rivard’s life following a harrowing health crisis in the remote Peruvian Amazon, and his eventual reemergence into the light.
“Sort of a Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey, I went through Chapel Perilous and lived to tell the tale,” reflects Rivard. “During the period of my depression I was uncertain as to whether or not I had anything left to offer creatively, and going into the studio represented a “hail mary” on my part. I’m excited that it turned out as well as it did, and that I was able to assemble such an extraordinary crew of musicians to play with.”
Fans can expect to encounter equally extraordinary and unique musicianship across each of Club d’Elf’s 2023 tour dates, with special guests including Medeski, Gabrels, Lyle Brewer (Neighbor), Rob Compa (Dopapod), and Duke Levine (Bonnie Raitt). Since the collective’s active personnel changes radically from show to show, many fans have their own favorite configurations of players. But that sort of constant flow and remixing of disparate talent means the music itself is also in constant flux. Individual songs can vary dramatically from performance to performance as new alignments of players make every moment fresh, so each of the following shows will provide a wholly unique, and likely transcendent, musical experience:
Club d’Elf confirmed 2023 tour dates:
1/13/23 Newmarket, NH @ The Stone Church (tickets)
2/4/23 Crested Butte CO – Alpenphunk Fesstival @ Public House feat. John Medeski (tickets)
2/10/23 Fall River MA @ The Narrows Center feat Duke Levine (tickets)
2/11/23 Stowe VT @ Stowe Cider feat. Rob Compa (Dopapod) (tickets)
2/15/23 New York, NY @ Cutting Room (tickets)
2/16/23 Providence RI @ Fete Music Hall (tickets)
2/17/23 Cambridge MA @ Lizard Lounge feat. Lyle Brewer (Neighbor) (advance tickets SOLD OUT, a limited number will be available at the door)
2/18/23 Burlington VT @ Foam Brewers feat. Rob Compa (Dopapod) (tickets)
2/22/23 Cambridge MA @ Lizard Lounge Earlier Show
2/23/23 Bridgeport CT @ Park City Music Hall (tickets)
2/24/23 Northampton MA @ Bombyx (tickets)
2/25.23 Portsmouth NH @ The Press Room (tickets)
3/10/23 Marlboro NY @ The Falcon feat. John Medeski & Reeves Gabrels (The Cure) (reservations)
3/11/23 Deep Dive, Ithaca
4/1/23 Stone Church, Newmarket
4/7/23 Soundcheck Studios, Pembroke MA
More 25th Anniversary Dates coming soon!
As Above will be available on all major digital streaming platforms on Feb. 8, 2023.
You can keep up to date on Club d’Elf tour dates here.