El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marco Benevento: Me Not Me

Me Not Me, an album of mostly covers, is the second solo studio album by keyboardist Marco Benevento of the Benevento-Russo Duo. Playing mostly as a trio with bassist Reed Mathis and taking turns on drums Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr, who both appear on “Now They’re Writing Music,” Benevento uses an assortment of instruments and gadgets in the creation of his jazz experimentation. This album was my first introduction to his work.

MNM opens with My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.” A layer of distortion forms the base of the song as Benevento’s piano leads the way. It doesn’t really grab me and I find myself constantly distracted by other things in the room as it drifts into the background. The drums move to the forefront for a cacophonous closing as some electronic keyboard notes ring out.

The beginning of “Now They’re Writing Music” has a similar sounding swirl of electronic noise, causing me to double check and make sure I was listening to a new song. Leonard Cohen’s “Seems So Long Ago Nancy” continues the trend and I wonder if Benevento is too focused on a new toy he recently received. When the sonic clutter thankfully grows feint, his piano shines through and is a pleasure to hear. “Mephisto” is a much more straightforward jazz tune with occasional sounds added to create the impression of descending.

Deerhoof’s “Twin Killers” starts with a few bars of distortion and drums and then the trio delivers alternating engaging jazz riffs. A level of noise created by their chaotic playing rises up and then they return to the alternating lines. The original “Call Home” opens and you can hear someone whispering with a baby. Sounds of traffic play throughout. An effect of woodwinds reminiscent of the Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” creates a theme revisited and recreated by other sounds.

Benevento closes the album with covers by the three most well known artists he interprets. Beck’s “Sing It Again” is a piano solo. Without anything else augmenting the arrangement, it stands out and almost doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the album. On Led Zeppelin’s “Friends” the trio return to form and the bombast they create with the help of the effects mirrors that of the originators. The album closes out with George Harrison’s “Run Of The Mill.”

While Benevento has a lot of interesting ideas on Me Not Me, most failed to engage me thoroughly and keep my full attention. The album worked better for me playing in the background. I would never think to listen to it, but I wouldn’t be put off if I happened upon it.

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