Marco Benevento: Me Not Me (2009)
It comes as no surprise that pop and jazz performers would attempt to reconcile their relationship. After the honeymoon period that was Tin Pan Alley, marriage wrecker hard bop, followed by the extra-marital affair with free jazz, ended things quite poorly. The children survived and played fusion, but the marriage was over. Certainly the reunion, perhaps reconciliation of the two, has been a long time coming. Not that Brad Mehldau, The Bad Plus and Sexmob haven't mined a bit of popular culture, they scrutinized it from a jazz perspective. Pianist Marco Benevento chose not to commit himself to one camp or the other.
Benevento might be best known for his association with drummer Joe Rossi and their duo jamband outfit that toured with former Phish leader Trey Anastasio. Benevento's Invisible Baby (Hyena, 2008) feels like a precursor to the more fully realized Me Not Me..
A ten-track album, Me Not Me features only three originals by Benevento. The bulk of the disc is made up of covers of compositions by Deerhoof, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, Beck, The Knife, Greene Harrison and My Morning Jacket.
Engineered by Bryce Goggin (Phish, Pavement) the music is, at times, more like a DJ's record than a pianist's. Benevento keeps the melodies simple throughout, but re-contextualizes just about everything heard here by running his prepared acoustic and electric piano through guitar pickups, delays, distortion pedals and a Fender super reverb amp. Besides the piano he plays with old pump organs and a Farfisa, Optigan and Mellotron. He comes up with enough odd sounds to make Tom Waits shed a tear.
If the question remains whether this is jazz, the answer is both yes and no. Deerhoof's "Twin Killers" and Benevento's "Call Home" are both simple pop tunes employing both old and modern sounds. The creative expression here is more a matter of production and choice of instruments rather than melodies. This territory has also been explored by Matthew Shipp. But where Shipp sounds like an old soul, Benevento's vision is definitely young at heart.
Track Listing: Golden; Now They're Writing Music; Seems So Long Ago Nancy; Mephisto; Twin Killers; Call Home; Heartbeats; Sing it Again; Friends; Run of the Mill.
Personnel: Marco Benevento: acoustic piano, Mellotron, Farfisa, Optigan, tack piano, clavinet, circuit bent toys; Reed Mathis: bass; Matt Chamberlain: drums (1, 2, 4, 9, 10); Andrew Barr: drums (2, 3, 5-7).
Record Label: The Royal Potato Family
Style: Modern Jazz