A song I wrote when the darkness began to lift. It was a sunny day, and the sound of the birds in the yard lifted my spirits. Inspired by the song of a thrush in the nearby woods, I started playing a riff in 7/4 that became the theme of the song. The whole thing came pouring out, like a leaf that just happened to float by and land on me. I grabbed my recorder and captured it while it lingered, singing the melody as i plucked the sintir riff. Listening back to it, with the birds singing in the background, it really felt like a gift from the universe – like a message of “don’t give up, here’s a bit of light amidst the darkness – there’s hope after all!”. You never know. It was really what I needed at that moment.
Club d’Elf’s take on the Gnawa song taught to me by Maalem Mahmoud Guinia during my visit to his home in Essaouira in 2009. This is a live capture of the performance at Middleville Studio that is on ‘You Never Know’, sans Mister Rourke’s overdubs.
Hearing the music of Frank Zappa for the first time when I was a kid growing up in MN had a huge impact on me, and he’s remained one of my biggest influences. I arranged his song “King Kong” in a North African chaabi groove. Mister Rourke added his parts later, and Brahim Fribgane overdubbed some more percussion, but other than that this is the basic performance from Middleville that you hear on ‘You Never Know’.
When Club d’Elf performed this song in 2018 at our 20th Anniversary show at The Lizard Lounge, it was known as “Wist”. When we recorded it the following year at Middleville Studio and released it in 2022 on ‘You Never Know’ it had been retitled to “Golden Hour.” Think Pink Floyd goes to Morocco, and check out the amazing guitar solo by Duke Levine.
A sintir groove meditation in 15/8 for my friend and bandmate Roberto Cassan, gone far too soon.
I transcribed Maalem Mustapha Baqbou’s sintir part on Hamouda from the Bill Laswell-produced CD “Night Spirit Masters”
For a number of years now at Hallowe’en time I take on the persona of Skeleton Sintir Man and scare kids at the Jamaica Plain Lantern Parade
Some sintir improv from early on in my study of the instrument
Voice of America feature on Club d’Elf on the occasion of the release of Electric Moroccoland/So Below, featuring John Medeski, Hassan Hakmoun & Brahim Fribgane
Excerpt from Club d’Elf’s performance in Quito at Ecuador Jazz 2016 in Feb ’16
More sintir improv
In 2004 Orchestra Morphine performed in Ouro Preto, Brazil. In this clip from backstage i play the riff i had just written that would evolve into the Club d’Elf tune “Sand”, dedicated to Sandman
In 2009 I accompanied a delegation from Somerville, Ma to Tiznit, Morocco where we formally initiated a sister-city partnership. At the tail end of the trip I got to go to Essaouira and visit with Maalem Mahmoud Guinia