Saturday, February 7, 2009

A month of Marco, sort of

Keyboard player Marco Benevento is on the cutting edge of blending modern and classic rock with the art of jazz improvisation, often in an other-worldly sonic atmosphere. The intensity, gorgeous musical palette and his vivid imagination make it something to check out.

Bay Area fans are getting a month (sort of) to do so in a live context, with Benevento performing at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., every Tuesday in February with a different set of special guests each week.

Those of us not on the Left Coast don't need to feel slighted. Benevento’s newest CD Me Not Me is out on his own new label, The Royal Potato Family. In addition to three originals, it includes covers of material ranging from Deerhoof, My Morning Jacket and Leonard Cohen to Beck, George Harrison and Led Zeppelin. His band includes ex-Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey bassist Reed Mathis, and Andrew Barr and Matt Chamberlain splitting the drum work. Benevento’s sonic arsenal includes piano, Optigan, Mellotron, tack piano and clavinet.

Benevento played a packed side stage at last August’s JVC Newport Jazz Festival, where saxophonist Chris Potter joined the trio for its rousing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Friends” and it is good to see that tune is superbly included here, albeit without sax.
Chris Potter sits in with the Marco Benevento Trio, JVC Newport, August 2008 ... >

Me Not Me opens with Jim James’ My Morning Jacket hit “Golden.” As the CD features Leonard Cohen’s “Seems So Long Ago Nancy,” it isn’t surprising to hear Benevento dropping a few most-memorable bars of Cohen’s anthemic “Hallelujah” into his take on “Golden.”

The leader’s own material includes “Now They’re Writing Music,” a rather straight-ahead version of his catchy tune “Mephisto,” and his Beatles-reminiscent “Call Home.”

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