Benevento/Russo Duo Play Pause Stop Butter Problems/Reincarnate Music 2006
This new album from Marco Benevento and Joe Russo is less an innovationfor the Duo or for jazz at largethan an extension and refinement of what's preceded it. The keyboards and drums team succeed in capturing in a studio setting the spacious and expansive sound of their live performances. It's no small achievement. Benevento and Russo's chemistry remains vigorously in play and that's the key.
The vocal effects on the opening title song make you wonder about some of the sounds on "Echo Park, which follows. Keyboard player Benevento has progressed beyond mere rudimentary figures, but he hasn't forsaken the elemental style he's forged with drummer Russo (who often sounds like he's playing the lead instrument). The charged atmosphere of the recording adds immeasurably to the overall effect of hearing the music. It draws you in and encourages the Duo's trademark hypnotism-by-groove.
Benevento and Russo are constantly in motion on Play Pause Stop and the music crackles with action. On "Soba," after a slow, ruminative intro, the two musicians shift gears sharply, and Russo's fatback beat hurtles through the cascading notes coming from Benevento, before the tune comes to an abrupt, sure-footed stop. The two men pick right up where they leave off with the next track, "Best Reason To Buy The Sun." This title song from their previous studio album (on Ropeadope) will be familiar to those who've seen Benevento/Russo live, but it loses little of its impact through familiarity. Instead, it consolidates the style that's emerged over the last two years, as Russo hammers away incessantly while Benevento methodically and mesmerisingly repeats the lullaby-like melody line.
In a quasi-dreamlike transition, chiming guitar figures emerge at the beginning of "Powder, almost as if to announce the close of one phase of evolution and the start of a new one. Electronic drums enter the mix alongside treated piano, but Hammond organ remains the cornerstone of it all. Benevento and Russo refuse to leave their roots behind as they move forward (in keeping with the alliance they've created on tour this summer with ex- Phishmen Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio).
By the time the eight minutes-plus of "Hate Frame" ends and the album concludes with "Memphis, what's mesmerizing for some listeners could have become monotonous for othersthe simplicity at the heart of Benevento/Russo Duo's music may just sound simplistic to some ears. But then, enjoying Play Pause Stop isn't so much a matter of taste. It's more a test of how open your ears are.
Play Pause Stop; Echo Park; Soba; Best Reason To Buy The Sun; Powder; Something For Rockets ; Walking, Running, Viking; Hate Frame; Memphis.
Marco Benevento: keyboards and vocals; Joe Russo: drums, percussion, guitar and vocals; Barry Davis, Josh Eichenbaum, Nina Millin, Mike Henry: vocals.