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Marco Benevento: Tigerface

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Marco Benevento’s organ intro to opener “Limbs of a Pine” recalls the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” but the comparison ends there, as vocalist Kalmia Traver of the indie-rock band Rubblebucket comes in with the surrealistic line “We wanna have a time/Wanna wake up body painted in the limbs of a pine.” (The expression was coined by Benevento’s wife, while explaining the aftermath of drinking whiskey and why she swore off it.) The cut features an effective meld of weirdness and accessibility: Expanding the outer limits of jazz, pop and the avant-garde to suit his madcap vision is just what Marco Benevento does.

The list of personnel reflects the leader’s postmodern approach: Tori Amos drummer Matt Chamberlain, Andrew Barr of folk outfit the Barr Brothers, Phish bassist Mike Gordon and bassist Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green all make appearances. “This Is How It Goes,” the album’s other vocal, has all the markers of a hipster anthem: lyrics left open to interpretation, a memorable chorus with a deep sense of resignation, and heavy synthesizers.

Benevento plays a slew of different keyboards throughout, and the result is an atmospheric headtrip geared to relax and entertain. Tempos never exceed mid-range, so the ambience builds slowly, from the subdued piano riff of “Fireworks” to the pneumatic textures of “Eagle Rock” and finally the more analog bluesy shuffle of “Do What She Told You.” He concludes with the dreamy pressure-cooker “Basilicata” and an instrumental version of “This Is How It Goes,” a satisfying coda.

Originally Published