Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby

By: Josh Potter

In 2001, jazz pianist Brad Mehldau recorded Largo, an album that applied the classic piano-trio template to a diverse range of material, including tunes by The Beatles and Radiohead. Like any deviation from tradition in the straight-ahead jazz world, the album was hugely controversial. Mehldau's project was dismissed as a trivial foray into shallow pop by some while others championed the album as a return to innovation in an increasingly nostalgic genre. One musician who fell into the latter camp was Marco Benevento.

Having only recently moved to NYC, Benevento took a lesson with Mehldau one day while the album was being mixed. Pounding through variations of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," the lesson highlighted the freedom of simplicity. Six years later, Benevento built his own piano trio, using Largo drummer Matt Chamberlain as his rhythmic anchor and enlisting the support of visionary bassist Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf Green). Invisible Baby (arriving on Hyena Records on February 12) features all original music, and rides the momentum of last August's Live at Tonic. This is Benevento's best work to date and one of the most important jazz releases since Largo.

Like Duke Ellington, Benevento's tunes hearken back to a time when piano music was spare and melodic. His themes leave the listener searching for the artist who originated the tune before realizing that these are, in fact, his brainchildren. If "You Must Be a Lion" were a radio hit, Top 40 artists would be clambering to remake it already. The goes for "Ruby," a tune formerly titled "The Arrival of Greatness," that came to Benevento in a dream before the birth of his daughter, who gives the song it's new title. It's a lazy theme, sing-songy in the manner of Largo, that emerges from a tangle of circuit-bent madness.

By now a standard part of his repertoire, "Record Book" may best exemplify Marco's understated songwriting. A gentle intro, reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius' "Continuum," gives way to a jaunty conversation. Like Pastorius, Mathis' playing is precise as ever, but unlike the hotheaded fusion king, Mathis' lines are uncharacteristically simple. Forgoing his usual effects rig and penchant for the upper register, his playing is perfectly supportive. This is a testament to his musicianship, not a misuse of his talents. The exception is "Atari," where a heavy, dub-worthy feel ripples through the percolating post-rock anthem, handily dispensing of bands like Battles and Ratatat, while allowing Chamberlain to shred the song's substrata in the fashion of The Bad Plus' David King.

Just as Chamberlain's drumming gave life to so many of the arrangements on Largo, so too does it propel Invisible Baby. An unsung hero in many successful projects (Critters Buggin', Tori Amos, Pearl Jam's Ten), his diverse experience manifests in his unmistakable, signature style. His playing on "If You Keep On Asking Me" makes the tune teeter like a wind-up robot, struggling to stay locomotive.

However, none of this diminishes the contributions of The Slip's Andrew Barr here. Barr plays on three tracks, one of which would be the single, if the album had one. Originally penned as a joke, "The Real Morning Party" is a pop tune with a nuclear half-life. When the album draws to a close, this will be the melody stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Through all the gleeful kitsch, it is, in the end, a vehicle for Barr's drumming. Using brake pads and a silver salad bowl, the gimmick is taken so far that it becomes one of the album's strongest tracks.

Toss in Benevento's banjo debut on the opener "Bus Ride," and the homage to Miranda July's short film "Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody?" as the closer, and the album is as varied as it is singular. Brief and spare, yet powerful and moving, there is nothing but joy at the heart of Invisible Baby, which is nothing short of an instant classic.

JamBase | New York City
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http://www.marcobenevento.com/

[Published on: 2/11/08]

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Comments

Nookiebox starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 10:38AM
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Nookiebox

Marco's so f*cking hot!!!

Robusto Mon 2/11/2008 12:12PM
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Robusto

Looking forward to hearing this; 'vento is the man, but What's with the album cover though?

G$Love Mon 2/11/2008 01:37PM
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G$Love

This album is awesome. Really interesting songs and melodies. There is a cool video for "The Real Morning Party" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSbBhXoExmw.

groovesharer Tue 2/12/2008 09:57AM
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groovesharer

Kind of interesting how Marco is doing a lot of work without Joe Russo lately. They're kind of like Outkast: No word of splitting up, but all the individual work makes you wonder if there are some creative differnces. Hopefully not!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 2/13/2008 05:14AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

u guys need to listen to stanley clarke. if u like M.

JacobFred starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/13/2008 09:39AM
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JacobFred

Hello Friends! JFJO needs your help!

We are going to be playing a number of shows in April to celebrate the release

of 'Lil TaeRides Again' - which will be released on Vinyl and CD with Hyena Records on

April 8th.

The tour will consist of the following dates, with more to come....

Apr 4 2008 - Blank Slate Tulsa, Oklahoma

Apr 8 2008 - Winston's - San Diego, California

Apr 9 2008 - The Mint Los Angeles, California

Apr 10 2008 - Kuumbwa Jazz Center Santa Cruz, California

Apr 11 2008 - Cafe DuNord San Francisco, California

Apr 12 2008 - Digital Signature (w/Bluetech & VibeSquad) Arcata, California

Apr 14 2008 - Mobius Ashland, Oregon

Apr 15 2008 - Doug Fir Portland, Oregon

Apr 16 2008 - WOW Hall Eugene, Oregon

Apr 18 2008 - John's Alley Moscow, Idaho

Apr 19 2008 - The Loft Missoula, Montana

Apr 23 2008 -The Stagestop Rollinsville, Colorado

Apr 24 2008 - Hodi's Half Note Fort Collins, Colorado

Apr 25 2008 - The Oriental Theater Denver, Colorado

Apr 26 2008 - Trilogy Boulder, Colorado

April 30th 2008 - Blue Nile with Big Sams Funky Nation - NOLA

May 1 2008 - d.b.a. New Orleans, Louisiana

THE REST TO COME VERY SOON!

As usual we are calling upon you to help us get the word out and make this show

theblowout album release celebration that it should be by hanging up flyers,

passing outhandbills, etceteras.

We are also looking for people interested in being involved with a listening

party for the new album to take place a couple weeks prior to the show.

We will send you a copy of the album, and something to raffle off at the

listening party, as well as help advertise. You find the location (a laid back local bar with a PA

system would probably love to have some extra business on a random night) and get as many

friends as you can (you can use facebook, myspace, email them, use a megaphone, send smoke

signals, etc.)

We would love to get materials (some sick new posters, postcards, and handbills)

out to all of you ASAP.

Please respond and let us know if you are still interested in helping street

team for JFJO in exchange for our love, admiration, and some JFJO goodies.

Include your mailing address/phone#, if you are interested in listening party

organization, and if you prefer one medium of advertising over another.

Thanks again, we love you freaks!

All the best,

JFJO

------------------------------------------------------------

Eric Dunn

[OMM] - [Overtone Music Management]

manager@...

overtonemusicmanagement@...

1.614.596.8020 (cell)

http://www.jfjo.com

http://www.sonicbids.com/jfjo

------------------------------------------------------------

LukesWall2 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/18/2008 06:49PM
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Great video of Mephisto from Sullivan Hall at the Invisible Baby release party

http://absorptiontransmission.com/2008/02/07/marco-benevento-friends-% e2%80%93-sullivan-hall-nyc-13108/

Also great Bustle In Your Hedgerow videos from Freaks Ball at Southpaw in Brooklyn

http://absorptiontransmission.com/2008/02/11/bustle-in-your-hedgerow-southpaw-brooklyn-2908/

jenofeve Fri 3/21/2008 01:43PM
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jenofeve

So, Marco is playing in NYC again-this time with Eric Kranso. This was just confirmed.

He's doing 2 nights at New Yorks newest and personally one of the chillest venues, Sullivan Hall.

Also playing with Marco are Briggan Krauzz and Bobby Previte. SICK!

the dates are: Fri. April 11th with Sam Kinninger Band and Sat. April 12th with Revision.