A floating ensemble in every best sense of the word, Club d'Elf is tethered to bassist Mike Rivard and the more or less house rhythm section from Rivard's extended residency at the Lizard Lounge, a progressive if not experimental music club in Boston. After releasing numerous live albumsthe best laboratory for their mainly improvised, genre-munching musicthey released their first studio album, Now I Understand
(Accurate), in late 2006. What did they do at their studio album release party? Why, perform and record it for another live albumPerhapsody
, a double-CD set that overflows with jam.
Most tunes led by Tom Hall's tenor saxophone suggest jazz fusion hijacked into more adventurous (and sometimes dangerous) territory. Hall's sax shapes the structure and leads the instrumentation of "Life of the Mind," for example, even though the music those instruments are actually playing sounds more attuned to experimental hip-hop and funk. He later leads the almost jolly yet crumpled bop melody of Steve Bernstein's "Cave Man," kicked by Erik Kerr's whipcrack snare drum down the echoing corridor of Rivard's bass heartbeat, which shifts into a thick jungle vamp for a middle section that seems designed to let the music breathe, culminating in a Rivard / Kerr dialogue/diatribe that bombdrops atomic funk.
Like quicksilver, the rest of this moves even more all over the place than that. Several longer tunes (such as "Sin Gas" and the title track) explore collective electric rock/jazz improvisations. "Berber Song" may be based on a form of traditional Moroccan folk music but its frantic lead guitar, clattering backdrop and rhythmic churn exemplify the busy-ness of modern American life. Similarly, "Jar of Hair" rocks hard through music that doesn't even come close to rock 'n' roll, as Rivard's bass seems to play "Tagyou're it! with Kerr's drum patterns under the cover of an electric guitar psychedelic freak-out.
I've been listening to Perhapsody for several consecutive weeks and still haven't figured out how to explain or describe this music. Which is probably the most honest and accurate Club d'Elf review of all.
Personnel: Mike Rivard: electric bass, acoustic bass, electronic tamboura, acoustic bass, sintir; Dave Tronzo: slide guitar, prepared guitar; Duke Levine: guitar, electric sitar; Mister Rourke: turntables; John Medeski: keyboards; Erik Kerr: drums; Tom Hall: tenor saxophone; Tom Halter: trumpet.