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Published: 2006/10/24
by Brad Farberman

Now I Understand – Club d’Elf

Accurate Records 5054

Listen here: bassist Mike “Micro” Rivard, from Minnesota, studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and with Dave Holland in Canada before linking up with Russ Gershon’s Either/Orchestra, an ensemble that included one John Medeski (it was with the E/O that Rivard spent a generous amount of time “wrestling with John Medeski in Motel 6’s throughout the Midwest”).

But that was a long time ago. Fast-forward to 1998: Rivard is offered a gig at Cambridge’s Lizard Lounge. Club d’Elf is born. The child is a trippy, funky, dubbed-out jazz monster that draws heavily from turntablism, world and electronic musics.

Want to know more? Here goes: they’ve toured the northeast many times over, tripped down south, and even to Japan, but the majority of their shows still go down at the Lizard Lounge.

Also, despite a cast of regulars including oudist Brahim Fribgane, drummer Erik Kerr and turntablist Mister Rourke, and near-regulars like John Medeski, Adam Deitch, Dave Tronzo and Alain Mallet, Rivard is the only member of d’Elf that you’re guaranteed to see on a nightly basis. It’s his bag, and don’t you forget it.

Finally, you should know that Now I Understand, d’Elf’s first studio document, is also their eighth record. Seven live albums have led up to this disc; d’Elf is a live thing. There are charts and tunes, but there are no rules d’Elf is improvised.

That being said, you would expect a studio record from a band like this to sound stifled, or too shiny, maybe? You would expect it to make you long for the gritty live experience.

Not so with Now I Understand. Rivard and co. have come up with a disc that you will go back to, many times. This is some heavy stuff, I promise.

The hypnotic “Bass Beat Box,” featuring dual, spooky keyboards (courtesy of Medeski and Mallet) and dual drums (Kerr and Jay Hilt on “fast” and “slow” drums, respectively), is a drum & bass odyssey not to be missed. “Quilty” is a longer, downtempo cut featuring Rivard on acoustic bass and a dreamy quality punctuated by Fribgane’s sublime oud work.

Other highlights (they’re all highlights, really) include the eerie “A Toy for a Boy,” sung by Jenifer Jackson (the tune is a little-known 60s nugget recommended to Rivard by NRBQ’s Tom Ardolino) and the moody, eastern “Vision of Kali,” again featuring Fribgane’s oud alongside Jerry Leake’s tablas and Mat Maneri’s scorching electric viola. Pick this one up, folks, and join the Club.

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