Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dino Perrucci|
Benevento/Mathis/Fishman :: 11.07.08 :: DROM :: New York, NY
Upon walking into DROM, a below-street-level, swanky jazz club with a small VIP area with tables and sleek couches, one was immediately struck by how tiny of a space it is. Formerly the absolute shittiest of dive bars, one where I can picture The Clash not only on the jukebox, but hanging out, this newer spot has come full circle in its transformation. The night opened with a set of folk tunes mixed with some rather impressive magic tricks from unheralded gem Nathan Moore.
Holding only a lucky 200 fans, Marco Benevento enlisted the help of longtime friend Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf Green) on bass and Jon Fishman (Phish) on drums. With Phish's comeback shows within sight, Mathis' unmatched musical IQ and Benevento's Brooklyn roots and history of playing with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon on the 2006 G.R.A.B. tour, expectations were electric for such an intimate meeting of musical minds and monster chops.
As the trio stepped onstage, loud, yet respectful applause littered DROM, as the band took the rather small stage tucked into a corner. A fourth member (presumably a friend of Benevento), held a camera and projected images onto a screen above the trio, further adding to the organic, loose feel of this night. Musically, the set started off with a bang: a super cover of My Morning Jacket's infectious "Golden," which proved to be an appropriate adjective for the next 80-plus minutes. The next few songs, "You Must Be a Lion" and "Atari," were off of Benevento's latest solo release, Invisible Baby. The former was nothing short of an ethereal, blossoming jazz flower, with Benevento leaving no room for warm up and scattering all ranges immediately with delicate precision.
On "Atari," Fishman, who seemed to ease himself into things this evening, made his presence felt with a steady onslaught of snares and quick fills as Benevento rattled the ivories over the top in a scattershot, yet totally intelligent way. Fishman seemed to be feeding off Benevento's leads, often times keeping his eyes on him and imitating where he was heading, while a few times leading on his own and reversing the roles. All the time, Mathis simply laid it down with locks of hair flying to-and-fro, as his lanky frame and gigantic bass followed in tow to the rhythm. Having seen Mathis in numerous settings, he absolutely shines in a role like this, a true professional's professional who can do it all - simply superb.
Deerhoof's "Twin Killers" was next and an absolute blowout, with Fish and Mathis leading the way with a one-two punch while Marco played the lead over the top. An ambitious number that usually relies on the guitar, Benevento showed he can do - and play - whatever he wants and pull it off wonderfully. "Record Book" and "Bus Ride," also off Invisible Baby, kept the attention of all, especially during the jam in the latter, which took off again with the interplay of Fishman and Benevento.
|Fishman & Mathis :: 11.07 :: NYC|
But, easily the biggest smile of the night on Fishman's face came when Benevento introduced "Diamond" Dave Dreiwitz (Ween, Bustle In Your Hedgerow) to the stage, where he was handed Mathis' bass. Fishman is a known Ween admirer, and the slowed down, instrumental version of Ween's "Baby Bitch" was simply beautiful. Another local friend, guitarist Scott Metzger (Bustle, American Babies, RANA) joined the trio for the set closing "Carnival of Souls" by Combustible Edison. Metzger absolutely shredded and proved a nice way to end the evening, along with the birthday party feeling, video-game sounding encore of Benevento's "The Real Morning Party."
But guests aside, it was clear the night belonged to the trio proper. The interplay among these three professionals was incredible. You often hear sports announcers speak of "basketball IQ." Well, if I was going to start a musical hoops team, these three would be my first picks. Benevento runs the point and shines while equally distributing the rock to his steady-center Mathis, who simply crushes his bass with each note like he's owning the slam dunk contest, and Fishman perfects the backdoor cut, following the eyes, the moves and leads of his point guard and occasionally adding a bit of his own swagger, a true sixth man (or in this case, third). Now, allow me to grab a board and one-hand a bounce pass about 100 miles south to my man, Jake Krolick for a look at Benevento's other recent trio...
11.07.08 :: Drom :: New York, NY
Golden (My Morning Jacket), You Must Be A Lion, Atari, Twin Killers (Deerhoof), Record Book, Bus Ride, She's Not There (The Zombies), Baby Bitch# (Ween), Carnival of Souls*, The Real Morning Party
# with Dave Dreiwitz on bass
* with Scott Metzger on guitar
Continue reading for Krolick's Philly coverage featuring Benevento with Marc Friedman and Josh Raymer...
Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
Benevento/Friedman/Raymer :: 11.16.08 :: World Café Live :: Philadelphia, PA
Food was the last thing on my mind as I bounced uncontrollably in my seat watching Marco Benevento sound check a multiple orgasm of optional "Bus Ride" openings. Our waiter at the World Café Live noticed as I squirmed in my chair and poked at the newly served food. He politely asked if everything was okay as I blurted out that I was simply too excited and that the food was fine. My inside voice said, "Settle that growing beast." But, after hearing the positive reviews from Brian Bavosa from the opening leg of this tour, all I could do was shovel in the tofu squares in a most un-Zen-like manner. Our observant waiter pointed out bassist Marc Friedman (The Slip) and drummer Josh Raymer (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) who scuttled around waiting for the curtain to rise. Benevento had assembled a similar lineup for his third Sullivan Hall show at the beginning of 2008. Yet, instead of Stanton Moore hammering the drums, Raymer would prove to be a jazzier counterpart to the evening. His upbeat rhythms and fearless structural accents remained in a constant state of evolution as Friedman found a late game looseness that rocked the pocket and shattered the heavens.
|Friedman, Raymer, Benevento :: 11.07 :: NYC|
Benevento set off down an unusual path cultivating a light, almost dainty mood during opener "Record Book." Raymer and Friedman egged him on with an under-churn of muted snare static and a deep end that bubbled out of the bass. Benevento eventually released his tea party finger work and proceeded to sprint through a "Walk Like An Egyptian" sounding jam. This musical interlude fragmented as Benevento spun the dials and pulled the levers. The buzz and hiss of his circuit-bent toys wound us into My Morning Jacket's "Golden." Raymer kept a firm double time that he filled to the brim with subtle snare and cymbal shots. Friedman hung back against the projection screen letting his bass be overtaken with morphing colors and shapes. The trio ultimately worked the chorus out into a resonating panorama that reverberated off the ceiling and landed in a cloud of notes.
Our glee built further as Benevento told the crowd about his forthcoming CD of covers entitled Me Not Me, scheduled for release on February 3, 2009. He continued by unveiling a new song penned the evening before at RISD. It came as no surprise that one of the creative centers of the universe yielded such a magnificent new piece of art. The unnamed song featured a grand complexity that Benevento performed oh-so-well as his hands danced subtly across the piano in elegant, sweeping motions. Raymer moved the composition dramatically forward, striking soft blows on the cymbals with fur wrapped tom-toms. The composition sprang between powerfully triumphant themes and softly spoken afterthoughts before ending in applause from a gracious crowd.
|Marc Friedman :: 11.07 :: NYC|
Benevento introduced the band no less than three times throughout the evening and was careful to add Jay Cooper, who handled the potent visual projections. Cooper's illustrious spirit boosted the show as if he was the fourth member of the group. Benevento described Cooper's touches and visual trips as "just a mellow, low grade bit of acid placed on everyone's seat." Those chair tabs really took effect during "Atari" and an off-axis cover of The Zombies' "She's Not There." Friedman and Raymer really started to connect musically as Raymer tightened the noose and buckled down the hatches with scrupulous stick work. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's drummer had a spectacular night! He clenched his face and shot his best snare towards Friedman, who had a growing sway to his step and began to brandish a more aggressive arm on his bass.
Friedman was present throughout the evening, but it wasn't until Pink Floyd's "Fearless" that he truly cut loose and unraveled our lower intestines with his heavy thumping fingers. Benevento laid out a barrage of effects, concentrating on the dial next to the wide-eyed blinking toy atop his piano. Friedman dug out deep furrows of low-end sound and Raymer simply chased after him, layering in a feverish march on drums. Benevento was free to create stylized mayhem on keys and effects that sent the cover out into unexplored territory. Friedman wiped his brow and sat down at a nearby table with his bass still strapped to his beating chest. Benevento called to him and started an impromptu Q&A session with The Slip bassist. After a few silly questions, a choice yelp of "Friedman's loose!" and one of the funnier Benevento rants of the evening, the set continued.
All three musicians sizzled as they charged into the second new song of the evening. This boogie-down newcomer featured Benevento scatting over the top of some funky alehouse chops. Passionate glances were shot around the triangle of players as they tore through what will no doubt be the next fan favorite. The evening ended in an uproar as Benevento announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, loose Friedman!" The wiry bass player uncharacteristically punched out the opening to Deerhoof's "Twin Killers," a section usually reserved for a heavy-handed drum solo. The song had not been crushed this well since Friedman's bandmate Andrew Barr (The Slip) had smashed the proverbial shit out it in NYC (read the review here). We sat mouths momentarily agape before thumping along on our tables.
|Benevento & Friedman :: 11.07 :: NYC|
As the show ended, the room was filled with a childlike exuberance similar to what I had experienced at dinner. We collectively bounced around, high from an escapade through the gunnels of jazz. Friedman said that Marco laid out an area for them to just probe around, but it's not just the musicians who got to explore, it was also the fans who were swept into this adventurous session.
11.16.08 :: World Café Live :: Philadelphia, PA
Record Book, Golden (My Morning Jacket), New Song, (unknown title), Bus Ride, You Must Be a Lion, Atari, She's Not There (The Zombies), Real Morning Party, Fearless (Pink Floyd), New Song, Twin Killers (Deerhoof)
Marco Benevento Trio - Philadelphia - 11.16.08