Hollerback Productions celebrated ten years of presenting great music, brought about by the vision and hard work of Dan Mastronardi, with a special anniversary show on Friday, May 31st at The Westcott Theater. The show featured one of the first big bands booked by Dan, the highly esteemed jazz/prog/dance/world music group Club D’Elf, with special guest, indie/jazz innovator Marco Benevento. Following a genuinely heartwarming, albeit awkwardly delivered speech by Dan Mastronardi, Syracuse music fans whooped with supportive thankfulness for the people that have helped construct the Syracuse scene.
Club D’elf then took the stage and fell instantly into a deep, bass-driven, psychedelic groove, laying down a warm and cosmic blanket of ambient sound and tribal rhythm, while masterful solo work was interwoven by the ‘Club’s’ highly gifted musicians. Each artist brought their own worldly and masterful sound to Club D’Elf’s droning yet complex jam-compositions. Besides talent, the Club boasted a diverse arsenal of cool toys. Bass player and Club D’Elf originator Mike Rivard switched between a low profile, futuristic-looking stand-up electric bass and a standard electric bass, while world music master Brahim Fribgane traded off between hand-drums and a stringed Lutar, that poured out exotic and timeless-sounding melodies that could have come straight out of a National Geographic documentary.
Together with Marco’s soulful, and dare I say “pretty” melodies on keys and Hammond Organ, Club D’Elf entertained, intrigued, and mesmerized listeners. Unlike many popular improvisational groups and jam bands, Club D’Elf focused on laying down well-crafted, often danceable bass-lines and rhythms, while placing the lead guitar in a chord-dominated supportive role. This kept the crowd moving and allowed space for lead instruments to develop melodies and themes spontaneously and collaborate on composition in the moment. Many times throughout the night, I watched as the members of the club traded knowing and joyful glances, as they felt the music come together organically. This, my fellow fans, is always a beautiful thing.