Joel Davel has toured and recorded with a variety of new music and jazz groups featuring original music and premiers by some of todayıs leading composers. He has also composed for and appeared as an on-stage accompanist for several theater and dance companies both as soloist and in duos with composer and instrument-builder, Paul Dresher. His primary interests are in non-traditional instruments, interdisciplinary work, and performing original contemporary music both written and improvised.

Davel is noted for his solo electronic performances. His appearance at a Lincoln Center event prompted the Wall Street Journal to comment: ³percussionist Joel Davel blew everyone away with his virtuosic improvisation on the Marimba Lumina, an electronic invention that emulates and extends the vocabulary of conventional mallet instruments, and the [Buchla] Lightning, played by waving wireless wands in space.² Mr. Davel has made frequent appearances as a solo electronic percussionist at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation as well as at other events such as the Other Minds Film Festival, at the Experience Museum in Seattle, and on tour in Russia.

Davel's intimate knowledge of his electronic music instruments come from 20 years of technical work with synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla, the original designer of the Marimba Lumina— an instrument Davel continues to build and develop. (The Marimba Lumina is an RF interface designed to expand mallet performance beyond traditional roles into new electronic realms.)

Joel Davel has collaborated with Paul Dresher for 16 years as part of his Electro-Acoustic Band, Davel/Dresher Duo, with several dance productions, and now with the international touring "Double Duo".  Davel also has a long history as a mallet player with jam jazz group Jack West and Curvature, electronic-avant-cabaret diva Amy X Neuburg, and the Eastern Europeon and Klezmer influenced violinist, Kaila Flexer. Joel's accompaniment of dance and theater includes work with companies The California Shakespeare Theater, The Cream CIty Semi-CIrcus, Nancy Karp + Dancers, ODC/SanFrancisco, Asian American Dance Performances, danceNAGANUMA, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, South Coast Repertory and the Allyson Green Dance Company. 2012 and 2014 theaterical-music collaborations include those with composer Max Duykers and tenor John Duykers in "Apricots of Andujar" and "The Potato King". In 2007 in Mexico he embraced the role of the percussionist in Henze's 'El Cimarron' featuring guitarist David Tanenbaum.

His primary teachers have included Rich Holly, Robert Chappell, Cliff Alexis, Tele Lesbines, John Ruka, and Willie Winant. On recordings, Joel has most often been featured as an acoustic marimbist in an ensemble context: two albums with Kaila Flexer and four albums with guitarist Jack West.

Based in Oakland, California, percussionist Joel Davel originally hails from Milwaukee,Wisconsin--his first 23 years always within reach of Chicago. He holds percussion and electronic music degrees from Northern Illinois University and Mills College.

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Joel regulary performs on electronic percussion with the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band. His first appearances with the ensemble were in showings of the Rinde Eckert/Steven Mackey collaboration, Ravenshead, and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's "Fault" in 1994. He has since played many new commisions with the concert Electro-Acoustic Band and worked closely with Paul on many satisfying projects in duos and for dance companies, Some of this work can be heard on his latest album, Cage Machine.

Joel appears on two other New Albion recordings with Willie Winant, this time of Lou Harrison's music. Seranado featuring David Tanenbaum and Drums Along the Pacific.

Joel's marimba playing is featured on recordings with Jack West and Curvature. Check out the recordings "Big Comet Headed for Earth" , "As We Know It" ,"Big Ideas" and most recently "Around About Now." Jack performs fingerstlye acoustic guitar as the foundation of the group. Performances and recordings have gotten some nice reviews:

. . .They challenge his [Jack West's] collaborators with studious melodic and harmonic complexity, buoyed by an infectious rhythmic verve. Davel, the only holdover from the lineup that recorded Bid Ideas, displayed the greatest ease and had the most fun with the material, spinning out mercurial solos from his seven-foot marimba in sometimes bright, sometimes warm, burnished tones. - Derk Richardson, East Bay Express

"It's fun to hear the two guitarists work with each other [on As We Know It], but the real pleasure is the wonderful marimba work of Joel Davel. He plays such melodic and percussive lines — his spot on "Interaction Shift" is quite intense yet, because of the rich texture of his instrument, is also soothing. I like his dancing lines on "Song for Calder", the way they dip, dive, and dart about, with an occasional rumble almost as an aside." -Cadence Magazine

"The interplay [between West and marimbist Joel Davel] is the kind of thing that makes listeners go gaga!" -SF Weekly

Joel also performed on marimba with Kaila Flexer's band ThirdEar/Next Village, from 1992-2000. Kaila drew inspiration for her writing from Klezmer music as well as other Eastern European stlyes. Violin, accordion, bass, marimba, and percussion is the format for the 1999 recording "Next Village." The 1995 recording, "Listen," includes Julian Smedley on 2nd violin (in place of accordion). Both recordings feature production and guest appearances by string wizard, Mike Marshall. For information on how to get the recordings visit Compass Records. There's also a track with Third Ear on the Acoustic Disc 100% Handmade VolumeIII that features a nice bluegrass marimba solo.

Joel has performed both Marimba Lumina and Lightning and recorded two albums with avant-cabaret group, Amy X Neuburg & Men.

As a soloist, Joel has made frequent appearances at events at the San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation. Joel performed primarily on Lightning for many of the opening events.

In 2004, Joel collaborated with Gina Lieshman (Kamakaze Ground Crew fame) on a solo percussion score for California Shakespeare Theater's "All's Well that Ends Well." Joel remained visible on-stage (in a one-foot pit) for the entire performance. Joel employed Marimba Lumina (for it's versatility) along with a large percussion setup. It ran for a month outdoors. This was much like Joel's early career with Friend's Mime Theater's "Cream City Semi-Circus."

Joel also performed solo with Nancy Karp + Dancers in the production of "Kristallnacht" at Theater Artaud. The score was Alvin Curran's composition "Crystal Psalms" (now on New Albion records). Joel performed from a part written by Alvin to supplement the recording and the visuals for a live effect. The part includes a few acts of demolition, a few involving glass, as well as accordion and shofar. Described by the German press. Joel also performed on-stage with Paul Dresher in the live accompaniment of Nancy Karp's piece, "Kalasam."

He has also worked with with Paul Dresher as part of the ensemble that accompanied ODC/San Francisco's production of OutaWak. included a solo conductor section composed by Joel that featured Lightning in mirrored accompaniment with a dancer.

Joel's work with Asian American Dance Performances and danceNaganuma includes mostly work with choreographer and dancer Claudine Nagamuna. He composed the music for the solo work "Fences," which Claudine has performed in Hong Kong, Japan, New York, Hawaii, and San Francisco.

Joel's early career included working as a music director and a performer with Milwaukee's Cream City Semi-Circus from 1984-1991. The Cream City Semi-Circus was a show in the same tradition as groups like Make-A-Circus, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Circus Amok, and other circus-theater groups that tackle social issues with a Vaudeville and Comedia d'elle Arte presentation. It was the free-in-the-park summer production of Milwaukee's own Friends Mime Theatre (FMT--now known as Milwaukee Public Theatre). Topics changed year to year, but there was always JUGGLING!

Joels aesthetic was also developed with his association with the Neoteric Ensemble. Based out of Northern Illinois University, the Neoteric Ensemble was a multi-media ensemble performing new interpretation of old works and site-specific improvisations throughout northern Illinios including Randolph Street Gallery and Lynx Hall, Chicago, 1985-1989. Performances included Relache, The Frogs, Elastic Theatre, Artbus, The Bacchae, Toujour Perdris .



Don Buchla has been creating unusual electronic music instruments since the early 1960's. In addition to performing instruments like the Buchla Lightning and Marimba Lumina, Joel has done a lot of printed circuit layout, alpha-testing, and assembly for Buchla and Associates since 1993 and Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments.

Joel holds in high esteem, the visual and tonal breakthroughs of instrument builder-composers like Harry Partch. The work done with Don Buchla and Paul Dresher is in this same spirit.



Joel received his Bachelors of Music (BM) in percussion performance from Northern Illinois University in 1989. He received his Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in electronic music from Mills College in 1993.

He grew up in the diverse Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated from PiusXI High School in 1984. Joel had a rewarding experience teaching general music to K-8 at St Robert's elementary school from 1990-1991.

He currently teaches private instruction and percussion ensembles in the inner city in an after-school music program. The Allen Temple Baptist Music Program open to all kids in the East Oakland community.


the proud early work history:

In grade school he spent some hours doing paid-per-piece work with KOSS Stereophone stickers and stapling together packages of Big Daddy Roth iron-ons, and occasionally helping his brother or sister with their paper routes. Though mostly he was kid taking group drum and trumpet lessons weekdays in the summer and weekends during the year at the public schools.

He worked most spare days and hours on his way through high school by stuffing envelopes, doing bulk mailings, packing, shrink-wrapping, collating lots of paper at Communications Today Corporation, Marketing Communications International and General Assembly Corp.

In college he was the accompanist for most of the modern classes for the Dance Dept. and joined the Circus for the summers. Joining the circus was the best thing he ever did.