Marco Benevento describes ‘avant-jazz’ style
Marco Benevento, a self-proclaimed “punk” from the New York music scene, met drummer and long time friend Joe Russo in detention hall. The rest is history.
A few years older and a great deal wiser, both musicians find themselves in the middle of one of the fastest growing musical projects in Brooklyn today.
Benevento, along with the Marco Benevento Trio, brings his avant jazz to Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall this Thursday, Dec. 3 for a 10 p.m. performance.
The young pianist, composer, and general genre bender has been gaining momentum since his debut on the New York jazz scene in 1999.
Today, Benevento has been profiled by everyone from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone, and deservingly so.
Benevento has an affinity for the strange, combining upbeat jazz piano with layers upon layers of heavy distortion. The musician comes fully stocked with his supply of electronic toys and recorders, allowing for a truly unique experience at every appearance.
Performing a combination of original material and broken-down covers of indie standards from artists such as Deerhoof and Beck, Benevento puts on quite a diverse demonstration.
Though Benevento’s appreciation of jazz began in high school, his love of music in youth was remarkably broad.
His appreciation for piano distortion began at a young age, starting with the song “The Alley Cat,” by Bent Fabric on vinyl and Benevento on the RPM knob, said Benevento in an exclusive interview with The Collegian.
“Then, I got into Motown and Led Zeppelin. In high school, I discovered jazz, and started listening to Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith and Oscar Peterson as well as Cream, Santana, Pink Floyd, The Who and The Doors. There was also Otis Redding, Radiohead and Nick Drake.”
His latest album, “Me Not Me,” is the sum of Benevento’s musical influences.
Smooth piano, coated in distorted synth makes up “Now They’re Writing Music,” an original Benevento composition. The haunting echoes of piano can be heard throughout a seemingly mechanical landscape of sounds.
When asked where the ideas for songs come from, Benevento enigmatically replied, “I wish I knew – actually I don’t [want to] know. I like the mystery, I like how it’s different every time, there is no recipe that works every time, it’s all up in the air, it’s all up to the Mayan Calendar. No, I actually I don’t believe that, well…maybe?”
“I like to think that the song ‘writing’ process does not lend itself to the song ‘composing’ process,” said Benevento. “When I sit down at the piano and just start playing, the ideas are coming quicker than I could write, so the creating part of it, the live composing part of it I like to think of as uncatchable, needing to move forward, almost as if they were presented to me and taken away at the same time.”
Regardless of his unique perspective on the songwriting process, Benevento does not shy away from previously existing material. “Me Not Me,” also includes the musician’s take on Beck’s “Sing it Again,” and Leonard Cohen’s, “Seems So Long Ago Nancy.” Benevento leaves nothing unturned in his quest to conquer all genres.
Songs completely transform under Benevento’s touch. Every tune comes into its own with dizzying synth loops and the omnipresence of Benevento’s virtuosic piano playing.
The mad scientist of the avant jazz front has also created his own line of t-shirts, which are available at his online store. The shirts contain such seemingly absurd messages as “Shooting up at the office,” which Benevento labeled as “pretty self explanatory.” Another reads, “We’re using time for fun.”
“Whenever you’re goofing around, laughing with your friends and having fun and it all is happening while you are supposed to be doing something serious, you might catch yourself saying, ‘Come on, let’s stop wasting time’— but you should really say, ‘We’re using time for fun,’” explained Benevento of his philosophical tee.
With his recent success, there seems to be very little that the young musician cannot do. When asked what he would like to achieve through his music, Benevento replied that he simply seeks “honesty.”
Any listener could tell you however, that Benevento has gone far and beyond honesty with his music. He has reached a place that transcends musical boundaries and enlightens his listeners.
Benevento conjures the sort of fleeting beauty that can only be found in the inventions of a truly great performer.
Angela Stasiowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org