Live at Tonic
Better known for bringing cinematic postrock to the jam-band scene in the Benevento/Russo Duo, keysman Marco Benevento accrued substantial jazz chops via studies with Brad Mehldau, Kenny Werner and Joanne Brackeen. When not touring rock clubs, the 30-year-old Jersey native is a mainstay in New York’s improv and experimental scenes, and the fruit of his labor is evident on a recent pair of albums; a trio record dubbed Invisible Baby, and an ambitious triple- disc set recorded live at the now-defunct out-music mecca Tonic
Featuring Benevento on piano, Reed Mathis on bass and drummers Andrew Barr and Matt Chamberlain splitting duties on the kit, Invisible Baby boasts eight original compositions and finds Benevento—who’s usually behind a B3—pumping a grand piano through Leslie speakers and projector amps, and tinkering with toys like Mellotron, Speak and Spell and a vintage church organ. But toys aside, Benevento delivers some memorable and introspective compositions like “Record Book,” a pensive tune that showcases his melodic and understated playing. “The Real Morning Party” features an infectious synth-laden head and a hypnotic drum solo wherein Andrew Barr bangs on silver salad bowls and brake pads.
Live at Tonic showcases Benevento the improviser alongside some high-profile friends: drummers Joe Russo and Bobby Previte, former Phish bassist Mike Gordon and Sex Mob’s Steven Bernstein. The three-disc set, recorded during Benevento’s Lower East Side residency in November 2006, draws from many of his own compositions, a multitude of covers and a few jams composed on the spot. Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” is dark and apocalyptic in scope, a take on Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” is raucous and fun, and Monk’s “Bye Ya” illustrates Benevento’s simple enthusiasm and skill on the ivories. Beyond the hype, this is an audacious, deep-thinking young player.