In the late 1960s, Rahsaan Roland Kirk frequently began his concerts by saying, “This ain’t no sideshow!” It’s understandable how one might mistake some elements of the proceedings as being for pure show, acts of provocation designed to stir things up for the sake of it, but the method behind Kirk’s sometimes-seeming-madness are evident in music that fearlessly and sweepingly grabbed pop and high culture and made them bump uglies. Nothing was off limits for Kirk, and music thrives in such freedom forward settings. One of Kirk’s clearest modern descendents is Marco Benevento, who exercises the same thoughtful lack of restraint, the same tongue-out, matted hair embrace of chaos and humor, and the same skills to pay the bills. Don’t believe us? Well, take a look at this freshly captured video from our undying pal Jake Krolick from this past Saturday at The Blockley in Philadelphia and see if you don’t think Marco is vibing on the same frequency as the great Rahsaan. We’ve even included a classic clip from Kirk to aid in your comparison.
Musicians who inhabit diverse skins – as comfortable in stripes as they are in spots – are frequently described as “chameleon-like,” which presumes they’re taking on the form(s) of others, a skillful sort of mimicry or approximation but something lacking in individual identity. While Marco Benevento seems to adapt to nearly any setting or style with duck-to-water aplomb, there’s never a sense he’s trying to mold himself in anyone else’s image. With Benevento one simply can’t do the usual critic equation of combining touchstones with qualifying adjectives. That sort of thinking just doesn’t add up with Marco who seemed quite alien – in the most beautiful, oh-shit-this-is-First-Contact way – from the moment he emerged to national (if underground for a period) consciousness with his buddy Joe Russo [see his drummer questionnaire here] in the early 2000s.
More simply, Marco is a singularity. Yes, there are tasty bits of great keyboardists past afloat in his sound stew – James Booker’s beatifically irregular New Orleans bounce, the cosmic drift and adamant modernity of Lonnie Liston Smith and Headhunter-era Herbie Hancock (with a dollop of Herbie’s In A Silent Way poetry), a Krautrock-ish groove sensibility that would fit in great with prime Can or Faust, a splash of Glen Gould-y classical know-how, the storytelling directness of The Band’s Richard Manuel – but one is hard pressed to discern fingerprints or clear lines in his ancestry. Free of genre restrictions or hero worshipping orthodoxy, Benevento has emerged as one of the most original keyboard voices in the past few decades.
His game-for-anything attitude is on happy display throughout Benevento’s new album, TigerFace (released September 11 by The Royal Potato Family), a journey – smooth and sumptuous – where one wonders from chapter to chapter, “Well, how did I get here, especially given where I last found my steps?” In visceral terms, TigerFace feels like a wonderful brain massage, where synapses attach to fragrant bubbles, which burst and drop them into yet more effervescence for the imagination. Largely instrumental (as is usually the case with Benevento), this set opens with a pair of collaborations with Rubblebucket lead singer Kalmia Traver, where the singer soars at her elemental, primal best – a sound of pure, finger snapping sensuality awash in music that only adds to the natural lift and shimmy of her gifts. Later, Benevento continues his work bringing boogie woogie into the 21st century on “Do What She Told You” and “Escape Horse,” which offer earthy, knee bouncin’ counterpoint to the spaciousness of pieces like “Soma” and “Fireworks.” Other coconspirators on this album include bassists Reed Mathis, Dave Dreiwitz and Phish’s Mike Gordon, drummers Andrew Barr and Matt Chamberlain, as well as saxophonist Stuart Bogie and violinist Ali Helnwein – another always promising thing about Benevento is the company he keeps. Like its creator, TigerFace is unique, a wide horizon filled with joy, light, and colorful things to rest one’s attentions upon.
The TigerFace tour began this past week and continues well into the fall. For full itinerary pop over here.
Here’s what Marco had to say in the Impound’s keyboardist survey.
A study in contrasts from 2012 installment of the High Sierra Music Festival. Each shot exhibits a real difference in personality, attitude, etc. where Marco Benevento was almost reluctant and a bit puzzled by the request to flip us off and the trio of Steve Adams and Lebo from ALO and Tea Leaf Green‘s Trevor Garrod were all too willing to oblige. DI never tires of the variety we get in this series, which we assure you will continue to add raised fingers for years to come.
This is enough to make Herman Melville rise from his earthly slumber and headbang along. Led Zeppelin has rarely been handled with more aplomb than instrumental interpreters Bustle In Your Hedgerow, which is comprised of Marco Benevento (keys), Joe Russo (drums), Scott Metzger (guitar) and Dave Dreiwitz (bass). These cats really get inside Zep’s material in such a loving way. Sadly, they don’t get together too often to do their Misty Mountain Hop due to their myriad other obligations. However, lucky East Coasters have a shot at seeing them this coming weekend – Friday, March 9th at Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY, and Saturday, March 10th at River Street Jazz Cafe in Wilkes Barre, PA. You can get in the mood by reading Joe Russo’s Gimme Some Skin entry, and here’s a show review for Bustle. In time, DI hopes to get Metzger, Dreiwitz and Benevento to do instrument questionnaires for us, too. And this clip of a recent performance shows what the Bustle boys are capable of. Somewhere Bonzo is smiling.