Marco Benevento | 01.31 | New York

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

Marco Benevento and Friends :: 01.31.08 :: Sullivan Hall :: New York, NY

Marco Benevento :: 01.31.08
Marco Benevento is the Kevin Bacon of the jam world. He's the glue bonding diverse people and genres. His demeanor and style embrace great musicians and amplify their talents. After a successful residency at Tonic in 2006, Benevento opened 2008 with a month at NYC's Sullivan Hall. Each week Benevento invited a different combo to sit in. The players have been from all over the map including Billy Martin, Stanton Moore, Calvin Weston, Skerik, Bobby Previte, Joe Russo and more.

The diversity of guests made each night unique. The unplanned sets morphed from stampeding progressive rock to straight-ahead jazz with a large gray area in-between. The run culminated on January 31 with a CD release party for Benevento's latest solo album, Invisible Baby (Hyena Records). For the occasion, Benevento showcased Reed Mathis and Slip drummer Andrew Barr, two of the album's unparalleled players.

As the last hours of January slipped away the crowd squeezed into Sullivan Hall. Artwork, including the Invisible Baby album cover painting, decorated the walls. The mob was lively and featured a rich blend of fans, writers and musicians including Marc Brownstein (Disco Biscuits) and Rolling Stone's famed writer-editor David Fricke. You couldn't walk five feet without stumbling into someone you knew, loved or respected.

A. Barr & Mathis :: 01.31
Benevento's magnetic banjo riff and circuit bent effects propelled "Bus Ride" into a feisty romp through a fusion of jazz and rock. We took off into the big wide-open, treated to a glimpse of heaven through the music. Benevento dropped a heavy-handed march across his personal Baldwin Grand piano. God bless Sullivan Hall, who paid to move it from his home to the venue. The onstage projection artist smeared the room in colors as Barr and Mathis slugged out their own cavernous pocket filled with smashing cymbals and accentuated bass blasts. Benevento leaned forward as he twisted knobs, upping-the-ante with layered crescendos. This perfect combination of sound acted as a riptide pulling our bodies closer to the stage.

Sullivan Hall's stage is a nice three footer, with only one wall holding the crowd from completely surrounding the band. Many moved in to flank Benevento. Wave after wave of frenzied fans pounded against the stage as the trio ran through a jaw-dropping segment kicked off with a straightforward "Real Morning Party." Andrew Barr tossed his Alaskan mullet hat aside to let his head breathe as he slammed into a double time drumbeat so catchy it's only a matter of time before Apple snatches it up for a commercial. Thursday's version wrapped its "Green Onions" meets Frankie and Annette arms around us in a warm blanket of piano, bass and Barr's kit smacking. The percussion instruments Benevento had handed out earlier shook with well-played crowd participation before the song playfully disintegrated into a haze.

Barr slammed directly into an animalistic mashing of his drums as he moved the band into Deerhoof's "Twin Killers." This polar opposite to "Real Morning Party" included Barr's frothy drum solo matching wits with Benevento's key beating. Barr's drumming danced on the edge of greatness calling to mind the ghosts of Elvin Jones and Keith Moon. Not since Benevento's similar pairing with Mike Dillon last year have the drums possessed such prevalent power and finesse.

Brad Barr :: 01.31
Benevento slowed the set down with a simple and airy take on My Morning Jacket's "Golden." The simple arrangement provided Mathis the space to let loose with a bass clinic. He ground out a smooth, dynamic solo that could have inspired Lilith Crane to smile.

Set One was a tasty little party that let our ears heat up. It made you anticipate the second set like you were awaiting the birth of your first child. During the setbreak, Benevento premiered a video for "Real Morning Party" concocted by Benevento and Michael DiDonna featuring a mish-mash of colorful clips of the Benevento Family's morning routine. It was another splendid touch and an honest peek at Benevento's tireless creative pursuit.

It's hard not to grin when reminiscing about Set Two. In the minds of many it will remain a standard of exploration and discovery, a reason to exist for live music fans for years to come. Set Two began with the trio attacking "Fearless." The Pink Floyd cover leapt out at us and grabbed our attention with a churning, crashing energy. Benevento brilliantly navigated the tempo with restraint, which allowed the trio to gradually build the song into a 20-minute-plus ballad that delved into freakishly wonderful textures. The three led us down their own rabbit hole on a heroic adventure, each eager to surprise us with what lay around the bend.

The Barr Brothers :: 01.31
Meanwhile a techno club sprung to life below us. They steadily cranked up the bass as the hour grew later and started the whole floor rumbling. As we stood listening to Benevento and friends demolish jams our bodies shook to a completely different groove rising from below. Luckily you could only hear it between songs, but your body sure told you otherwise.

As the epic second set continued Benevento, Mathis and Barr left their bodies to fully inhabit their instruments. Each shook off the preconceived limitations as they propelled the music forward with uncanny ability. Benevento's keys and circuit bending toys worked an amazing contrast as they teetered on the edge of madness. He was a surgeon slashing open slick, bloody gashes of sound and then subtly sewing them up with nimble fingers and courageous ideas.

After unleashing a tweaked reprise of the "Real Morning Party," Brad Barr joined the trio as they transitioned into Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better." The addition of his brave, raw guitar filled out a patch in the music reserved just for him. Brad caught fire as his muddy style latched onto the music. We danced out of Carly Simon's cover into a spiraling jam that ventured around an addictive, bluesy lick. The songs bled together into one long glorious tale.

"Mephisto" captured the night's wonderment and brought it full circle with another helping of the "Real Morning Party." Benevento deconstructed the fourth version of the happy tune and placed it as a piano tease. There are barely words left to describe the rendition of The Zombies' "She's Not There" that closed the show. Its slow, sultry build flowered into brilliance as Brad placed his final stamp on the night. His tattered guitar riffs fused with Benevento's elegant keys, catapulting both instruments into a fervent embrace. The drum and bass provided a smooth surface for the piano and guitar to exchange moaning screams of pleasure. Their sultry exchange ended and the trio began a brave romp through the red light district. Benevento's piano danced freely with raw passion and injected the crowd with shots of desire. The whole evening was a music lover's wet dream, but this finale was that rare bottle of single malt scotch tucked away in the cellar only to be tasted on special occasions.

01.31.08 :: Sullivan Hall :: New York, NY
Set I: Bus Ride, Record Book, The Real Morning Party, Twin Killers (Deerhoof), Golden (My Morning Jacket), Atari, Ruby, Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody?
Set II: Fearless (Pink Floyd), If You Keep Asking Me, You Must Be A Lion, The Real Morning Party, Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon), Jam, Mephisto, She's Not There (Zombies)

Marco Benevento & Friends at Sullivan Hall - 1/31/08

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phreak89 starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/8/2008 10:04PM
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i would love to see one of these Marco & Friends shows, unfortunatly there's always in NY!!! Anybody know anywhere it can be dowloaded?

dvmspence starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 08:06AM
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Marco Benevento is a BOSS of intellectual musical genius and if you don't make an effort to see him live then you are just pretendin'. Respect for this cat is mandatory, end of story!!!!

toestothenose Sat 2/9/2008 10:34AM
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You can find out how to download this show at

I apologize about some grammatical issues in the piece they will be adjusted soon. I felt it important to get something up in a timely manner, due to the excellent experience.

moethug starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 01:02PM
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u know 6 degrees of kevin bacon..."a music lovers wet dream" haha i like it...nice article jake

Ned8 star Sat 2/9/2008 06:30PM
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Barr compared to Elvin Jones..... Not on his best day

The1AndOnlyDJCT starstarstarstarstar Sun 2/10/2008 08:49AM
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I was at this show, and while it was amazing, (especially once Brad joined), I agree with Ned8, this review is a bit over the top.

bluefox starstarstarstar Sun 2/10/2008 01:40PM
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Good story though it does need a quick copy-edit. Breath should be breathe for example. Do yourselves a favor and download them from nyctaper. The audience is a bit chatty on the recording but the music comes through. As far as drummers go Andrew is certainly one of the greatest of his generation and Marco has great taste in drummers. I can't wait for him to bring the show back to the West coast!

jweir420 starstarstar Sun 2/10/2008 05:04PM
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The Kevin Bacon of the Jam World? What the efff?

Ned8 Sun 2/10/2008 05:16PM
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Blue Fox... with all due respect, as music certainly is in the mind of the beholder, you really need to expand your perspective if you are saying Andrew Barr is one of the greatest of his generation because to make that statement is telling indofar as what you have listened to. Adrew Barr is a good drummer... lets leave it there and let me know if you want to get some links for some stuff you may not have heard PEACE

toestothenose Mon 2/11/2008 06:35AM
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Thank-you for all posts. Ned - I think your thoughts are valid. My point was not that Andrew Barr is equal to Elvin Jones, but to simply give him an accolade worthy of his playing on the 31st. I’ve revisited the disks of that show almost daily since its completion and found it thoroughly pleasing. I made the Barr comparison to Jones due to his timing, wide-open style, and the volume of sound produced during the Real Morning Party>Twin Killers segment. In my humble opinion - that show was on track to be some of the best live music I’ve heard to date. It will be interesting to hear others thoughts as this group tours over the next weeks.

Ned8 Mon 2/11/2008 08:30AM
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toestothenose : I appreciate your review, am actualy a fan of all these guys and I think your review was solid for the most part but as The1AndOnlyDJCT said it is over the top. Can't hear any brilliance you insist on from the clip so I will download the show and get a listen.

Thanks for the response

cam0083 starstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 11:44AM
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I love Marco Benevento and everything I've heard so far but I almost stopped reading after the first sentence of this article. That being said, other than the Kevin Bacon slip, I thought the article was great and it sounds like an amazing show, but still...Kevin Bacon?

bluefox starstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 01:39PM
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Some of my favorites include Alan Hertz, Scott Amendola, Jeff Sipe, Billy Martin, Kenny Wollesen, Matt Chamberlain, Stanton Moore, Brian Blade & Jon Fishman. I can think of a lot of other drummers playing today who I also really like but I tried to pick ones roughly in Andrew's age range. Of course any musical recommendations are welcome!

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 05:52PM
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Have a bunch to send you but here is a link for all

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 05:55PM
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Opps; drummer's name is Deantoni Parks

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 06:10PM
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Yea... Same cat that plays with Mars Volta

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 08:40PM
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Jake, Excellent, excellent, excellent review. I wasn't there, don't know the music of Benevento or any of his projects. But this review, along with the imeem stream of Fearless (sick) certainly made me wish I was there. Well done man. Well done.

toestothenose Tue 2/12/2008 07:56AM
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Ned - Huge thank-you for the point to astroid power-up! - Deantoni Parks is nasty on the skins. It's interesting to hear him away from the Mars Volta.

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Tue 2/12/2008 08:27AM
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toestothenose I know, check him with Meshell Ndegeocello as well. He is mathy but when it comes to oozing style he is to me, so versatile and comes authentic with it.

When I get a chance I will send some more drummers I think you would dig but to your personal e-mail.... This is a blog on the review that show and I don't want to offend but I dig the exchange PEACE

toestothenose Tue 2/12/2008 09:02AM
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Ned - hit me up at phillyspread (at)

The1AndOnlyDJCT starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/13/2008 07:38AM
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Bluefox, those are all sick drummers, you weren't by any chance at the Steven Bernstein show on Sunday at the Jazz Standard with Billy Martin and Kenny Wollesen were you?

bluefox starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/14/2008 05:27PM
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Unfortunately not, on the wrong coast for that one bout sounds like a sweet show, I would have loved to have checked it out.

LukesWall2 starstar Mon 2/18/2008 06:46PM
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Awesome Mephisto video from 1/31/08 e2%80%93-sullivan-hall-nyc-13108/

Also Bustle in Your Hedgerow videos from Freaks Ball at Southpaw in Brooklyn 2/9/08 outhpaw-brooklyn-2908/

jenofeve Fri 4/11/2008 03:08PM
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2 shows this weekend. Back at Sullivan Hall with Bobby Previte, Briggan Krauss and trombone players Curtis Fowlkes (on Fri) and Gianluca Petrella (on Sat.)

with the Sam Kininger Band and Revision opening on specific nights.

There are still tickets!