released May 11th, 2010
from the album - Greenpoint
from all music
Marco Benevento is a young keyboardist whose jazz-rooted work has expanded to include indie rock, jam band, and post-rock/experimental influences. Born in 1977 and raised in the northern New Jersey town of Livingston, Benevento studied piano and befriended an aspiring drummer named Joe Russo in a junior-high detention hall. After high school, while Russo migrated westward to Boulder, CO and fell into the hippie jam band scene there, the more jazz-inclined Benevento moved to Boston to attend the Berklee School of Music, from which he graduated in 1999 after studying keyboards under noted jazz pianist and instructor Joanne Brackeen. Following college, Benevento formed a popular Boston-area improvisational outfit called the Jazz Farmers, which continued when Benevento resettled in New York City in 2001. Running into his old junior-high buddy Russo at a Medeski, Martin & Wood gig, Benevento accepted an invitation to perform a series of duo gigs at the Knitting Factory, which turned into a full-time partnership as the Benevento/Russo Duo. Benevento released four albums with Russo: Benevento/Russo Duo, Darts, Best Reason to Buy the Sun, and Play Pause Stop. Tying into Russo's roots in the jam band scene, the duo also spent much of 2006 touring as half of former Phish leader Trey Anastasio's backing band.
In 2007, Benevento began a live residency at the New York club Tonic, which led to the August 2007 release of Live at Tonic, a three-CD set taken from those shows that ranges from traditional small-combo jazz to post-rock/experimental soundscapes. Benevento signed to Hyena Records and released Invisible Baby in 2008 with bassist Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Tea Leaf Green) and drummers Andrew Barr (the Slip) and Matt Chamberlain. It was followed by Me Not Me on Royal Potato Family in 2009 with the same players. Benevento recorded Between the Needles & Nightfall for Royal Potato Family with Mathis and Barr. The album was tracked at Brooklyn's Trout Studio with engineer Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Akron/Family). Benevento promoted the recording by taking the trio on the road, playing club dates and festivals in the United States and Canada.
Marco Benevento's first two studio recordings, Invisible Baby and Me Not Me, took an approach that smashed all of his musical interests together in a delightful, loopy, sometimes slightly insane musical mess of jazz, rock, funk, classical, cartoon, and jam band music. Backed by a rhythm section (usually bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Andrew Barr), he played an array of vintage keyboards (including a baby grand piano with guitar pickups and an amplifier) and "circuit bent toys." His music on those records is unclassifiable, wonderfully humorous, and full of surprises, because it shifts not only genres but textures, dynamics, and arrangements very quickly; often spastically, and he makes it all sound easy.
Between the Needles and Nightfall is a change-up in his approach. With Mathis and Barr, Benevento still uses his array of toys, and he still employs many genres of music, but he’s consciously decided to make this batch of tunes more structural and formal. The musical collision course he's previously charted has been smoothed into grooves, easily identifiable melodies, and actual loops — in other words, songs. Each tune here, once its theme is established, is identifiable all the way through to its end. There isn’t a lack of ideas here, far from it; if anything there is a compositional framework that is as original as his more abstract work. What is here is a very deliberate attempt at creating a record that can be easily digested — even ignored, borrowing an idea (and interpreting it maximally rather than ambiently) from Brian Eno — as it plays. The title track uses a spare set of chords and accents Mathis’ electric bass as much as it does a lilting, nostalgic melody that gradually develops into an anthemic brand of hummable melancholy with martial drumming from Barr. "It Came from You" employs percussion loops, programs, and layers of keyboards that move through drum‘n'bass and eventually morph into a surreal cartoon music whose melody is unforgettable once encountered, even though there are sly solos on piano and organ inside it. “You Know I’m No Good” is like the Ramsey Lewis Trio grooving on a montuno in a Sergio Leone western before it transforms into impure soul-jazz, all the while keeping the groove in the pocket with enough distorted sound effects to shove it into the 21st century. Initial listens might seem underwhelming, but that's deceptive: there is much sleight of hand going on here that repeated once reveal numerous surfaces grafted onto and inside one another. Between the Needles and Nightfall is an excellent introduction to Benevento for new listeners. It contrasts nicely with his previous offerings and reveals a more accessible dimension to a musician so original that he can ultimately only be judged against his own standard.
1 Greenpoint Benevento 6:17
2 Between the Needles Benevento 4:59
3 Two of You Benevento 5:31
4 Numbers Benevento 6:27
5 It Came from You Benevento 5:13
6 Ila Frost Benevento 6:59
7 Risd Benevento, Friedman 7:37
8 You Know I'm No Good Winehouse 3:39
9 Music Is Still Secret Benevento 4:28
10 Wolf Trap Benevento 5:50
11 Snow Lake Benevento 7:03