Coming off a monster New Year's run with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, playing Jam Cruise and the announcement of being added to the nations hottest music festival; Bonnaroo, proves that the Benevento/Russo Duo have grown into some serious players.

JamBase's Chris Gaspar recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of keyboard/organ guru Marco Benevento. Come along as they kick back and cover the past, hit on the present and look to the future. Enjoy!

JamBase: How was the New Year's run?

Russo, Benevento, Gordon
12.29.04 by Robert Loud
Marco Benevento: The run with Mike [Gordon] was great! Sold out shows and bigger venues than Joe [Russo] and I are used to playing. In Vermont we decided to start the show with no preconceived idea or tune, we just went out and made up music, and that was actually one of my favorite parts of the run. We engaged in fantastic interplay during the improvised sections of tunes. Hanging and playing with Mike is really fun and full of great stories, interesting table games, and just awesome conversation. We only had two afternoons to rehearse for the New Year's Eve run, and they were the two days before we left. I learned "Foam" one drunken evening on Christmas Eve in my parents' basement because first off, it's an incredible tune full of constant counterpoint and quirky little licks, but also I thought it would be a nice surprise. We all brought a bunch of tunes to the table and learned them quickly. The shows on the New Year's Eve run consisted of four Phish tunes, about four Duo tunes and a couple of prog-rock tunes. We included a rotating cast of covers including Yes' "Roundabout," ELP's version of "Hoedown," a Marc Ribot tune, a cut off Miles Davis' album On the Corner, and a couple of Led Zeppelin tunes where Scott Metzger of RANA came out and killed! Like I said before, we only had two afternoons to put it all together, so it was total crunch time.

JamBase: Have any New Year's resolutions?

Marco Benevento :: 12.29.04 by Robert Loud
Marco Benevento: No New Year's resolutions. I didn't really think about that kind of thing. I mean I did reflect and I came to many realizations, but not one big resolution stood out for me... oh, except for making out with Joe on stage, for sure!

JamBase: You recently performed with Joe at Jam Cruise. What were your expectations going into that event?

I had no expectations really. Well, I guess I really didn't know how freakin' huge the boat was going to be. There where four stages and plenty of room to move around. There were many opportunities for collaboration, and all the musicians seemed to have a blast hangin' out, dancing until 8 a.m., and rockin' out on stage nightly with various cats.

What did you do on your down time from playing on the cruise?

Marco Benevento and Joe Russo
I practiced some piano and worked on some new compositions with Joe. We both have actually found a nice music space, meaning taste-wise, where writing and coming up with music is getting a lot easier.

Who were you excited to see music wise at Jam Cruise?

Les Claypool's band and Col. Bruce Hampton.

How did you get involved with keys and organs?

As a kid my parents bought a piano for the house, and I just noodled around when I was six years old. When I was 14, they found an advertisement about a Hammond organ for sale. I went off to music camp when I was 15, and when I returned home, the organ was in our living room!

Marco Benevento
Got any new interesting instruments or gear lately?

A couple of nice old Wurlitzer's which includes a nice 140 that I found in Boone, NC. Some kid at our show sold it to me for 75 bucks!

Do you have a personal favorite gig you have played?

I think it's coming up - JAPAN! We had a real nice set on the boat during Jam Cruise. It was 1:00 in the afternoon and really hot, so right when our set ended, I just jumped in the pool about five feet away from me.

Let's talk about Japan for a moment. How did you get involved with the Japan mini tour with Dirty Dozen Brass Band?

Our manager also works with Dirty Dozen, so that helped greatly. When they heard our music they totally freaked out. Initially, we sent them four songs, and they immediately contacted us to have us send them the entire album.

Marco Benevento by Zack Smith
Any collaboration with the Dirty Dozen on the rise in Japan?

Oh yeah, I'll probably play some Hammond with them.

What is the name of the new album and release date?

Best Reason to Buy the Sun, April '05.

Any album highlights of mention?

Joey Waronker, the drummer for Beck and R.E.M., produced the album. He's an overall badass!

Any guests of note on the upcoming release?

Smokey Hormell (guitar - Beck), Skerik (sax) and Mike Dillon (vibes, percussion).

You are stacked for the next two months straight with the tour ending at Langerado, what's in store for summer?

Tour, tour and more tour. We are supporting the new album and hitting the festival circuit, of course!

Chris Gaspar
JamBase | North Carolina
Go See Live Music!


[Published on: 1/28/05]

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