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Marco Benevento: Between The Needles & Nightfall

Chris May By

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Marco Benevento covers a lot of ground in his search for the lost chord—jazz, rock, jam band and spangly pop—but the Brooklyn-based composer and keyboard player is no fusionist. To borrow a description applied to bassist and producer Bill Laswell in the mid 1980s, Benevento is a collisionist: he doesn't so much sit on the fence separating jazz and rock as jump up and down on it, reconstructing the splinters into something new. Shot through with strong tunes and catchy hooks, Benevento's music is instantly appealing, like the best pop, urgently pre-coital, like the best rock, and possesses real substance, like the best jazz. It has character and unpredictability—and it is ridiculously good fun.



Between The Needles & Nightfall, Benevento's third studio album in as many years, is as close to perfect as its predecessors, Invisible Baby (Hyena, 2008) and Me Not Me (Royal Potato Family, 2009). Once again accompanied by electric bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Andrew Barr, Benevento plays his trademark battery of keyboards—a baby grand piano customized with guitar pick-ups, amplifiers and pedals, a Mad Inventor's suitcase of "circuit bent toys," an Optigan, a Mellotron and a Farfisa organ—not infrequently, all on the same track.



At his core, Benevento is a sound sculptor, using loops and layered keyboards to create evolving collages of color and texture. Much of this is pre-arranged, but, remarkably, a significant portion is improvised, as was apparent on the DVD Live In NYC: The Sullivan Hall Residency (Royal Potato Family, 2009). During the extended residency, Benevento jammed with a rolling cast of guest horn players and guitarists, including some he'd admired from afar but never previously played with, and got about as fearlessly in-the-moment as it is possible to get.



And lest we forget, Benevento can also cut loose with a convincing "conventional" acoustic piano solo when he chooses to. He does so here on "Wolf Trap," a typically wild track though one with an ominous undertone quite unlike the joyous vibe found in most of his work.



If anything is wanting in Between The Needles & Nightfall, it is perhaps a little more variation in light and shade: the album gallops along with abandon pretty much from start to finish. On the other hand, just as a priapic male might enjoy being ravished in rapid succession by a dozen or so nubile houris, so too is it possible to lay back and enjoy Benevento's exuberance.



More light and shade or more houris? It's a tough call.

Track Listing: Greenpoint; Between The Needles; Two Of You; Numbers; It Came From You; Ila Frost; RISD; You Know I'm No Good; Music Is Still Secret; Wolf Trap; Snow Lake.

Personnel: Marco Benevento: piano, Optigan, circuit bent toys, Moog, Mellotron, Farfisa; Reed Mathis: electric bass; Andrew Marr: drums, percussion, electronic drums.

Title: Between The Needles & Nightfall | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Royal Potato Family

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