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Marco Benevento: A New Form of Fusion

By Published: March 3, 2008
AAJ: How'd you decide to work with those four guys—was it pretty natural, in that you knew once you decided to put out a solo record that Matt, Andrew and Reed would be your guys?

MB: In like 2004, Andy Hurwitz at Ropeadope Records put a two bus tour together—it was a ten day tour called the Ropeadope New Music Seminar. Every night was about four or five acts; there was a cellist that played and then Joe and I played, Charlie Hunter played with Bobby Previte, Sex Mob played and then Critters Buggin played. And we were all on two tour buses, so it was 16 of us and 8 on each bus. It was my first bus tour.

So, Chamberlain is the drummer in Critters Buggin, so that's where I got a chance to hang with him. A night [of the tour] got canceled, in Philly, and we were in New York. The buses stopped in New York and it was a Monday night and I said, "Dude, there are so many amazing musicians right here, stopped in New York, [who] don't have a gig." I called the Knitting Factory at noon that day and asked for a gig and they actually gave me the night. I didn't know if anyone was free, but I figured I'd call whoever and I know they'll wanna play cause you're on tour, you have the night off—most likely you're gonna want to play or hang out.

So Matt was in and Reed was in town because he was playing with someone else, which is sort of a weird coincidence. We just had an amazing night of improv and I have it [recorded]. One of the songs is on my website, on the "More" page.

That was the first night I had really played with Chamberlain and Reed and I remember just feeling like it was the easiest thing in the world. I'd never played with a drummer that was as comforting and easy to play with. It was effortless. I've always known in the back of my mind that I was gonna do something with [those two]. That was in 2004 and three years later we did the Live at Tonic record and a tour to promote the record, and I called Matt and Reed to do that tour.

AAJ: Was this record the natural progression from doing the "Live at Tonic" record? After doing that were you convinced it was time to go into the studio and cut a solo record?

MB: Yeah—totally. I actually wanted to do more with the Live at Tonic. We had about 8 or 9 tracks of stuff that we could edited, and I wanted to bring it home and put out sort of a different live record. But the multi-track tapes that I got from the person who taped it were totally blank.

I didn't plan on releasing Tonic at all—I do gigs in New York all the time that get taped that I have at my house and I never release them. But Andy wanted to release it and I said sure. It wasn't really exactly what I wanted but it's still great music and I figured I should put it out.

So then I thought, "OK now I can really go into a studio and do it over again." I realized that in the wake of Tonic I could release a studio record that even has some tunes from Tonic on it. "Record Book" is on disc one of Live at Tonic, but with Chamberlain on drums so it has a whole different feel to it. "Ruby" is called "The Arrival of Greatness" on Tonic.

AAJ: With regards to your songwriting, all your music seems to have a pop sensibility to it, but how much improvisation goes into the music, specifically on this new record?

MB: I would say there are sections [of songs] that lend themselves to improvisation. Certain songs follow a traditional jazz form of ABA tune—you play the head, solo, play the head and it's done. "Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody" is that. There are definitely more sections to improvise that are designated as improv sections than say a Duo record.

For me, I love improvising and I love making shit up. At Sullivan Hall [in New York City] this month, I've been throwing together bands and just making up music all night, which is really fun. But I also love having a song form and improvising within that form. As a musician, and music being sort of a meditation and a release for me, I'm looking forward to that moment where it's, "OK—improvise—GO!" That's the kind of stuff that makes me feel like I'm never going to get old.

In the Duo—we used to be 80% improv, 20% tunes. No we're 90% tunes, 10% improv. It was a natural switch and I love what I'm doing with Joe but I also love having this outlet to throw bands together and do this improvisational shit. Maybe as a drummer you can relate, but I love improvising—that's what got me into music.

This is definitely a jazz tradition and I studied at the institution. I still like to take lessons whenever I can. I mean—I studied. Some people who are in bands never studied or never got into the jazz world. That jazz world opens you up to this whole other way of being a musician. It's like I got screwed, in a good way, like "Oh no—now you know you like improvising."

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