July 16, 2009

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Club d’Elf | The Lizard Lounge | Cambridge, MA | July 10, 2009

The Lizard Lounge is a small, cramped venue with what never seems like enough seating. The stage is the center focus point of the tiny basement club, with all seats and people revolving around it. Yet, the venue makes up for its lack of size in the quality of its performers, the intimacy of the setting, and the widely unique selection of beers they have on tap.

July 10 was the first of a two-night bill in which Club d’Elf and JFJO would alternate as headlining acts. The atmosphere was incredibly laid back, and everyone was friendly, smiling and contemplative.

Tonight, Jacob Fred’s set had a different lineup than usual. With Brian Haas on the keys and Josh Raymer on the drums, joining them was Matt Hayes on the double bass, and Chris Combs on lap steel. JFJO is always surprising and tonight they played their set as an acoustic jazz quartet, omitting the gadgets and electronics that oftentimes accompany them.

“It’s good to be in Boston, with Boston, as a part of Boston tonight,” Haas said before he introduced the band and started up on a song titled “Drethoven,” a celebration of their two favorite composers, Beethoven and Dr. Dre.

If you can imagine a mad scientist of a man with square-toed boots, prayer beads and a suit jacket with jeans, conjuring up potions with his eyes closed and his head lolling back, you’ve got Haas playing the piano. He orchestrates the unison of his band with a flick of his wrist or a quick nod that only they can comprehend.

Always in check with Haas, Raymer held it fast and tight on the drums. He was strong and edgy, and truly embodied the term “backbone,” never missing a step or dropping in to the tune too late.

When Club d’Elf started to play, the entire venue hushed. The band has the tendency to be a bit more electronically oriented, spaced out, weird and ambient. Tonight they felt less stripped down. They were sexy and more groove-oriented, with a gist of cinematic scare and fresh love built right in.

At first people listened, sitting and standing motionless, but as the band played and became jammier the audience began to move. Club d’Elf is the kind of band that is best heard in a place where there is the kind of floor room and space adequate for bigger, dancing crowds.

The DJ was an integral part of their lineup, and the electric guitar player was literally having at it onstage. He provided the funky orientation in the rock sensations that pulsed in synchronicity with their electronics.

You don’t always need to see these guys to fully comprehend their music. In fact, closing your eyes and bobbing your head allows the music to penetrate more deeply and more intimately. Dancing or not, in this way you don’t miss a beat.
-Words and photos by Amanda Macchia

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