Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Moroccan-dosed Dub-jazz Collective Club d’Elf Releases Live at Club Helsinki

New Double Album featuring John Medeski, Brahim Fribgane, Duke Levine, 
Mister Rourke, Mike Rivard and Dean Johnston available January 10, 2017

"Club d'Elf sounds like the lovechild of Pink Floyd and George Clinton, dropped in Marrakesh...some deeply psychedelic music." - Marlon Bishop, WNYC

"The roaring avant-funk of electric-era Miles (and) the legato drift of the Grateful Dead...Manic Berber bop, hypnotic Moroccan Gnawa and blissful electronica are usually present in the mix as well...at its peaks conjuring a Derek and the Dominoes floating on a cough-syrup current. Heady music that doesn't neglect the tail." - Steve Smith, Time Out New York

Performances January 13 – 27 in Boston, MA; Brooklyn and Hudson, NY; Providence, RI

Boston-based, Moroccan-dosed dub-jazz collective Club d'Elf celebrates the release of Live At Club Helsinki, an epic double album that showcases the band's genre-leaping improvisational acumen, performing at one of its favorite venues for an ecstatic crowd. Featuring keyboard wizard John Medeski (employing an arsenal of analog instruments including a vintage Mellotron) the music visits touchstones as disparate as Studio One, John Cage, Gnawa and drum'n'bass. The band's association with Club Helsinki dates back to 2001, and a combination of superb sound, intimate environment and an audience tuned into the band's every nuance helped create one of those magical nights. Live At Club Helsinki captures the excitement of two complete continuous sets of no-holds-barred improvisations and classic D’Elf tunes.  Street date: January 10, 2017 on Face Pelt Records.

Disc one starts with the free jazz opening of "Mogador" (featuring a volcanic Medeski solo on grand piano), and segues seamlessly into a cover of The Gaylads "Africa" (driven by Duke Levine's rootsy Telecaster), the music shape-shifting in a way that is free-flowing and never contrived. "The Booloolu" is based around a Moroccan 12/8 cha'abi groove, which the band has absorbed to such a degree that it elicits a rousing response whenever native Moroccans are in the audience. Brahim Fribgane shines on South American cajon, before switching to oud for his composition "Hegaz", based on a traditional Arabic scale. The band's music has been called "the music of dreams" (Boston Globe), and here the dream continues its inevitable flow, as the band moves into the prepared-bass-driven hip-hop of "Secret Atom." This track showcases the wizardry of Mister Rourke, whose rock steady beat-matching and ability to pitch samples into the key of the song, set him apart from ordinary DJs. The band closes the first set with "Berber Song", derived from the Amazigh people of Morocco. Blistering solos from Levine and Medeski on B3 take the band into an Allman Brothers-go-to-North Africa zone, closing with a sample from one of the band's major inspirations, neo-psychedelic avatar Terence McKenna.

Derived from ancient sources, trance forms the central core of the Club d'Elf aesthetic, unifying the various genres the band has absorbed. That influence - notably the Moroccan variety - is evident on disc two, beginning with a tribute to the late Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. On tour in Morocco in 2009, Rivard befriended the maalem, who was one of the most revered of the Gnawa, a mystical brotherhood of trance-healers. He taught Rivard the Gnawa song, "Zeed Al Maal", with the version played here driven by Fribgane's vocals, and Rivard's commanding playing of the Moroccan sintir, a camel-skin-covered bass lute. "Power Plant" follows, with Levine adding a James Bond-esque melody over a sintir-propelled rhythm. Rourke drops another McKenna sample, and the band flows into "Salvia" and "Green Screen", dance-floor-filling electro-jams fueled by Medeski's funky clavinet. Fribgane's oud and vocals are featured on the last tune, "Sidi Rabi", which closes the set on a spiritual note.

Formed in 1998, Club d'Elf's music draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles, including jazz, Moroccan Gnawa, hip hop, psychedelia, electronica, avant garde and dub. Circling about bassist/composer Mike Rivard (Morphine/Either-Orchestra/Boston Pops Orchestra) and drummer Dean Johnston, each Club d'Elf performance features a different line-up, drawn from a constellation of some of the most creative improvisors from the jazz, DJ, rock & world music scenes of Boston and NYC, creating a unique experience for audience and musicians alike.

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 the avant comedy of Firesign Theater and Mr. Show. Guitars, turntables, Fender Rhodes, laptops, horns, tablas and all manner of exotic instruments flow in and out of the mix, along with guests including Marco Benevento, Billy Martin, Ryan Montbleau, DJ Logic, Mark Sandman (Morphine), Hassan Hakmoun, Marc Ribot and Skerik.

The band is equally at home playing late-night festival sets for the rave/Burning Man crowd as it is for a predominately Arabic audience in traditional garb as boundaries melt away and all are drawn into the intoxicating power of the D'Elf groove. The group’s bi-weekly residency at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA is the stuff of legend and provided a laboratory for its improvisational style to emerge and develop. Its latest studio 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, rising to #1 on the Relix chart. The band made its debut in South America this year, performing at Ecuador Jazz 2016. 

"One of the most inventive and ever-changing bands in all of new jazz. There is simply not another band like Club d’Elf on the planet." - Russ Davis, Jazz America

"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

See Club d’Elf Live:

Friday, January 13, 2017: Columbus Theater, Providence, RI (w/ John Medeski & Duke Levine)

Saturday, January 14, 2017: Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY (w/ John Medeski & Duke Levine)

Friday, January 20, 2017: Roulette, Brooklyn, NY (w/ Hassan Hakmoun & Mat Maneri)

Friday, January 27, 2017: Red Room at Café 939 (Berklee), Boston, MA (w/ David Tronzo)

Bill Mobley - Hittin' Home (2016)

Musicien discret, voire ombrageux, le trompettiste Bill Mobley s’est fait connaître à nous grâce à l’opiniâtreté de Xavier « Big Ears » Felgeyrolles, directeur artistique de Jazz En Tête, le seul festival de jazz de l’hexagone qui ne programme que du jazz, et producteur de cet album. Mobley fait partie de la « Memphis Connection », une ville célèbre pour ses pianistes.

Le grand Phineas Newborn naquit non loin de là, à Whiteville précisément. Natifs du Mississippi, Mulgrew Miller et Donald Brown y travaillèrent avant de poursuivre leur carrière ailleurs. Auprès d’eux à Memphis, le jeune Bill découvrit la richesse d’un jazz ancré dans la tradition du Sud et du blues. Installé à New York en 1987, il acquit une solide expérience du grand orchestre dans les rangs du Mingus Dynasty, du Maria Schneider Orchestra et du big band de la pianiste Toshiko Akiyoshi avant de former le sien, l’éphémère Bill Mobley Jazz Orchestra. Le trompettiste s‘était produit à Jazz en Tête, à Clermont-Ferrand en 1989 au sein de l’orchestre de Donald Brown dont il était le trompettiste.

Xavier Felgeyrolles qui produisait alors les disques de Donald, accepta de publier son premier album, un enregistrement de 1996 de son Jazz Orchestra effectué au Small, club new-yorkais aujourd’hui célèbre, qui réunit les pianistes de Memphis Harold Mabern et James Williams, mais aussi Donald Brown, Mulgrew Miller et le saxophoniste Billy Pierce que Bill connaissait depuis son adolescence.

Plusieurs disques plus tard, devenu un des musiciens incontournables de Space Time Records, le label de Xavier dont les « Ears » sont plus « Big » que jamais, Bill Mobley sort “Hittin’ Home”, un disque réunissant des musiciens au sein de petits ensembles à géométrie variable, des duos, trios, quartettes dans lesquels le trompettiste se révèle au sommet de son art. Point d’esbroufe, de notes inutiles, mais une rare précision dans le phrasé, dans les attaques, la musique bénéficiant de sa sonorité claire et timbrée. Deux morceaux réunissent Mobley et Kenny Barron.

Dans The Very Thought of You, une des plus belles pages de cet album, un des nombreux standards dont Mobley défend la mémoire, les harmonies colorées du piano enveloppent avec finesse et douceur le chant de la trompette. Plus enlevé, My Romance génère un dialogue élégant qui capte l’attention. En duo avec Phil Palombi, l’un des deux bassistes de ce disque, Mobley nous donne une version en apesanteur de Old Milestones, première version de Milestones enregistré par Miles Davis en 1947. Portée par une contrebasse pneumatique, la trompette semble librement flotter dans un éther sonore.

Les trios restent toutefois les plus nombreux. Peace (Horace Silver) et Jewel (une composition moins célèbre de Bobby Watson), associent la trompette de Mobley à la guitare de Russell Malone. Ce dernier assure les accords, mais se fait aussi entendre en solo.

À la contrebasse, Essiet Okon Essiet assure sobrement l’assise rythmique de ces morceaux lyriques et voluptueux. Très présent dans l’album, Steve Nelson y apporte son vibraphone cristallin et sa science harmonique. En trio, soutenu par la walking bass puissante d’Essiet, Walkin’ (de Miles Davis que Mobley apprécie beaucoup) lui permet (ainsi qu’à Bill) de faire sonner avec une précision d’orfèvre des notes acrobatiques. Deux autres morceaux se détachent de ce “Hittin’ Home” qui « fait mouche » comme son nom judicieusement choisi le suggère. Enregistré en quartette, composé par Heather Bennett, la femme de Bill qui tient elle-même le piano et en joue fort bien, Lil’Red délivre de tendres harmonies. Piano, trompette, contrebasse et piano sont rejoints dans la seconde partie du morceau par le vibraphone qui maille habilement ses notes à celles du piano.

Apex, une composition de regretté Mulgrew Miller, présente une instrumentation quelque peu inhabituelle : trompette, marimba, contrebasse, ces deux derniers instruments mariant idéalement leurs timbres. Bien que dispersée, La « Memphis Connection » a encore de beaux jours devant elle.

01. The Very Thought Of You
02. Walkin’
03. Hittin’ Home
04. My Romance
05. Jewel
06. Old Milestones
07. Lil’ Red
08. Apex
09. Peace
10. Scene On Seine
11. Waltzin’ Westward

Kenny Barron (p #1,4)
Steve Nelson (vib #2,3,7,10,11)
Russell Malone (g #3,5,9)
Essiet Okon Essiet (b #2,3,5,7,9,10,11)
Phil Palombi (b #6,8)
Heather Bennett (p #7)
Clint Mobley (per #10)
Kevin Norton (marimba #8)

Ray Lema & Laurent De Wilde - Riddles (2016)

Un projet de plus !  En avril dernier Ray Lema a déjà sorti Headbug et Laurent de Wilde cette année propose son projet autour de Monk, lui qui a déjà écrit deux livres sur ce pianiste de génie et assure les portraits de jazz du mercredi sur TSF Jazz. 

Leurs origines sont si différentes : Ray est né il y a sept décennies dans le train de Lufu-Toto en pays Kongo où ila fait le petit séminaire des pères blancs, quand Laurent, lui, naquit il y a cinquante-six ans à Washington, et passa plus tard par l’école normale supérieure de la rue d’Ulm en philosophie, avant de filer à New-York. Sans parler de leurs univers, musique congolaise pour un et jazz pour l'autre (avec des expérimentations du côté de la musique électronique). Réunis autour d'un piano, ils abordent à quatre mains un répertoire d'une richesse égale à eux-mêmes.

Mais approchons nous pour les surprises. Dès la première écoute, il se dégage de cet album une belle musicalité, simple, joyeuse et dynamique. Et cela n’est jamais démenti tout au long des neuf pièces, toutes différentes les unes des autres. Il faut dire que le menu est très éclectique : un rythme traditionnel à trois temps de tango pour « Riddles », mais aussi un ragtime digne du début du 20ème siècle dans « Congo Rag », sans parler de la mélodie entêtante de « Fantani » qui débute par le piano arrangé de Laurent, rappelant à si méprendre la sonorité de la Kalimba (1). Il semble que les deux protagonistes ont pris comme challenge de s’essayer dans tous les styles, avec une reprise du regretté Prince « Around the World in a Day ».

L’ensemble donne un savant mélange des deux univers, pour n’en former plus qu’un. Le résultat est probant, comme l’écrit le philosophe Frédéric Lenoir dans son livre L’âme du Monde « ce qui rassemble est infiniment plus important que ce qui sépare, et qui n’est que le fruit des différentes cultures ».

Est-ce que Riddles  appellera d’autres albums dans la même veine, où ce CD restera le témoignage de cette communion à quatre mains ? L’avenir nous le dira.

(1)    La Kalimba, de la famille des lamellophones, est un instrument originaire d’Afrique.

01. Intro 1:30
02. Cookies 5:59
03. Fantani 4:28
04. Riddles 4:51
05. Congo Rag 3:41
06. Too Many Keys 2:53
07. The Wizard 5:13
08. Liane et banian 4:45
09. Matongué 5:11
10. Around the World in a Day 3:55
11. Fantani (Radio Edit) 3:43

Ray Lema, piano

David Wise - Till They Lay Me Down (2016)

You may have found this album listed as “jazz.” Really, it’s just a collection of music that I felt it was most urgent to record. Whatever label you put on it, I hope you like it. As Gary Bartz says, “If I’m locked into a category, I’m in a room with walls around me. But music is the universe.” So here we go.

“What More Could One Man Want?” is an expression of something a lot of people are never lucky enough to experience. Jason Joseph steps in to voice that sentiment better than I ever could.

“Sylvia” and “Here’s that Rainy Day” are for my grandma and grandpa, Sylvia and Frank “Chesty” Grossman, without whom life would be a waste of time for everyone. 

“Til They Lay Me Down” means that for as long as I’m here, I’ll be me, and I’ll carry as a part of me every single person I’ve ever met and every single thing I’ve seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and done. You know who you are.

“Kol Nidre” is the central melody of Yom Kippur that I have heard sung by Philip Okun and Judy Belinkie all my life. I’ve drawn great musical inspiration from their interpretations.

If you fall asleep during “Lullaby,” I won’t be insulted. In fact, that’s the point.

“Home” is just that, a simple melody that makes me feel right at home.

“Life is But a Song” is a true story, and I was fortunate to have a friend like Amy K. Bormet to help fill in some of the gaps in my lyrics. Feel free to stand up, clap your hands, move your feet, whatever takes you there. Life is beautiful and you only get one. Thank you, and see y’all next time around.

01. What More Could A Man Want?
02. Sylvia
03. Here’s That Rainy Day
04. Home
05. Kol Nidre
06. Till They Lay Me Down
08. Lullaby
09. Life Is But A Song, Parts 1 & 2
10. Life Is But A Song, Part 3.

David Wise: tenor and baritone saxophone, vocals on tracks 8 and 9
Bruce Forman: guitar
Alex Frank: bass
Jake Reed: drums

Plus guests:
Jason Joseph, Laura Mace: vocals
Josh Smith: guitar
Glenn Morrissette: alto saxophone
R.W. Enoch: tenor saxophone
Amy K. Bormet: keyboard (track 1)
Mitchell Cooper: trumpet (tracks 1 and 9)
Mikala Schmitz: cello (tracks 2 and 8)

NEC Announces 2016 Entrepreneurial Musicianship Grant Winners


$8K in Funding Awarded to Young Boston 
Musicians Dedicated to Creating Value for Their Communities

The New England Conservatory Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department (EM) announces the winners of the Fall 2016 round of Project Grants. Following a highly competitive written application and Shark Tank-style pitch, seven students were awarded the EM Project Grant, which provides modest seed funding and access to a cohort of advisors to support them along the way.  The current NEC Entrepreneurial Musicianship program team consists of: Rachel Roberts, Director, Annie Phillips, Assistant Director, and Andrew Worden, Program Manager.

"Articulating an idea, creating a collaborative team, crafting a market strategy, and figuring out how to balance a budget are all important skills musicians need to make their work sustainable in the world," says EM Director, Rachel Roberts. "Our students have the advantage of getting a head start by putting these skills to work while they're still students," said Roberts. 

Modeled after a real-world grant, students must write compelling project proposals, research and craft a budget, and design a promotion strategy for their project. Over the past seven years of the program, EM Project Grants have awarded over $100,000 in funding to more than eighty student projects, many of which still exist today in Boston and beyond.

The adjudication panel for the EM Project Grant included faculty and staff from the New England Conservatory, as well as special guest Adrienne Valencia, Director of Education for the San Diego Symphony. Reflecting on a day full of project pitches, Ms. Valencia wrote, "I was very inspired by the creativity and dedication that the students showed in each of their proposals."

This fall's funded projects include: a new original musical, offering music therapy in real time to Alzheimer's patients and their families; an interactive Cuban jazz group for underserved communities in Boston, the Lomax Folk Project, which will tour New England this summer; a sound installation crafted with an architect for the opening of a new building in Taiwan, a saxophone orchestra, and an original children's book that uses visual music notation to help tell the story.

Morgan Middleton
Remember When
An original one-woman play, written and performed by Ms. Middleton and supported by a trio of NEC jazz students, to address the power of music in fighting Alzheimer's disease. Morgan Middleton is pursuing her graduate degree in Vocal Performance at NEC.

Amanda Ekery
The Lomax Folk Project
A five-piece educational ensemble pairing original arrangements and historical stories of songs in the Lomax Collection. The Lomax Folk Project will be touring the New England area, where the Lomaxes recorded, the first two weeks in June. Amanda Ekery is pursuing her graduate degree in Jazz Performance at NEC.

Andrew Steinberg
The Megalopolis Saxophone Orchestra
Reinvigorating the saxophone orchestra tradition by bringing together high caliber musicians from Boston and surrounding metropolis areas for live performances, lectures, and audience demonstrations. Andrew Steinberg is a doctoral candidate in Saxophone at NEC.

Rayna Yun Chou ­­
Music, Distance, and One Minute of Just Us
Bringing music, visual arts, and architecture together to create a social experimental exhibition in Taichung city. Opening December 24th through New Year's, live performances occur during the Christmas weekend. Rayna Yun Chou is pursuing her graduate degree in Viola Performance at NEC.

Lauren Parks
Musical Storybooks
Offering English teachers in public schools a fun, interactive teaching resource to introduce young students to musical notation, musical performance, and visual art through storytelling. Original compositions, graphic notation, and illustration by Ms. Parks. Lauren Parks is pursuing her graduate degree in Composition at NEC.

Julian Loida & Sofia Kriger
Mojubá: Bringing CUBA to the Community
A modern world-jazz quintet disseminating the folkloric music of Cuba and Brazil to underserved communities in Boston.  Julian Loida is pursuing his graduate degree in Percussion Performance and Sofia Kriger is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Jazz Performance at NEC.

Media editors please note: Members of the EM team and grant winners are available for interviews and will have preview opportunities for media. High resolution photos available by request. Please visit www.necmusic.edu/em/grants for more information.