Interview with Marco Benevento

Marco Benevento
Marco Benevento

Interview by Scott Preston
Photos by Michael Benevento

Marco Benevento has announced North American tour dates in support of his forthcoming new album, Between The Needles & Nightfall. The Brooklyn-based pianist leads his trio for a 29-night headline run that includes a stop at The Southgate House just outside of Cincinnati in Newport, KY on Thursday, May 13.

On Between The Needles & Nightfall, Benevento’s third studio effort in as many years, he proves himself one of the most prolific new voices of his era. Blurring genres from song to song, and more often from measure to measure, the pianist offers his own take on simple pop pleasures, dance party rave-ups and art jazz experimentation. The results range from the day-glo electro-rock of “It Came From You” to the simply-stated lullaby “Ila Frost” to the shimmering Arcade Fire-meets-Brad Mehldau anthem “Two Of You.” Speaking in modern sonic tongues, cut-and-pasted, tweaked-out and glitchy, Marco Benevento creates music full of wide-eyed wonder that rejoices in the limitless horizons of sound and melody.

Cincy Groove: Tell me about your new album Between The Needles and Nightfall.

Marco Benevento: We ended up meeting with a very well known jazz label, Verve. I knew I was going to put out a new record, but when I saw how excited the label was getting about the music, I got even more excited about the music myself. I started thinking about some ideas and conceptualizing about what would be on the record. I knew I wanted to get into more what could be considered electronic or loop writing. RISD and Greenpoint, two tracks from the new album, are ones that I have been playing live quite a bit over the last few years. The Amy Winehouse tune I have been playing for a while as well. But most of the rest are fairly new songs. I knew this record was going to be different than the other two, because I wanted to focus more on the technical side. I really didn’t spend a lot of time writing the music, with electronic elements there is an improvisational aspect to the music. The tune, Between Needles and Nightfall, was just a song I improvised at home on the piano. I got lucky and recorded it, because a lot of times you don’t always think about hitting the record button when you are just experimenting. Basically for that tune, we went into the studio and I played my improvisational piano part for the rest of the band. Then the rest of the guys just started playing around it. With this record I just feel I didn’t worry so much about the songwriting, but rather had fun with the creativity side of the experience.

Cincy Groove: You have played with so many talented musicians, what have been some of your favorite collaborations?

Marco Benevento: I played with the drummer from Deer Hoof, his name is Greg Saunier. Greg ended up playing with us in Japan, which was awesome. Honestly though my favorite people to collaborate with are Reed and Andrew. Getting to play with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon was a lot of fun and to get to play in front of that many people was amazing.

Cincy Groove: Have you ever had that moment on stage where you told yourself, “I can’t believe I’m playing with this person?”

Marco Benevento: I would probably say playing with Trey and Mike.

Cincy Groove: What do you think led you to write more improvisational/experimental music as opposed to a more structured format?

Marco Benevento: I think instrumental music tends to lend itself to be more experimental. Also Jazz, which I have a strong background in, tends to have a strong improvisational aspect to it as well.

Cincy Groove: I noticed you also have your own t-shirt line. How did that come about?

Marco Benevento: I started in 2005, it came about one day when I said something and my friends said “Hey you should put that on a t-shirt”. Thats pretty much how it started. People would ask me about them, so I decided to make a bunch. I see people in the audience with the shirts on, which is pretty cool. It’s a great connection to have with the fans.

Cincy Groove: Do have a favorite electronic/musical device you like to use on more than others?

Marco Benevento: I have a handful of circuit-bent toys, some of my favorites are Speak and Spell and Speak and Read. The circuit bent Speak and Spell is a really fun gadget. I also have this thing called the Atari Pedal Console.

Cincy Groove: Do you have any upcoming shows you are excited about?

Marco Benevento: The Bowery Ballroom show in New York. Also I’m excited about a show I have in Brooklyn, I am re-scoring a movie and performing it live in Prospect Park.

MARCO BENEVENTO Upcoming Tour Dates:
May 5 | The Space | Portland, ME
May 6 | The Stone Church | Newmarket, NH
May 7 | Main Pub | Manchester, CT
May 8 | RISD | Providence, RI
May 9 | Nectar’s | Burlington, VT
May 12 | The Hideaway | Louisville, KY
May 13 | Southgate House | Newport, KY
May 14 | Martyr’s | Chicago, IL
May 15 | Wilbert’s | Cleveland, OH
May 16 | Club Cafe | Pittsburgh, PA
May 19 | Nightcat | Easton, MD
May 20 | 8×10 | Baltimore, MD (w/ Xylos)
May 21 | North Star | Philadelphia, PA (w/ Xylos)
May 22 | Bowery Ballroom | New York, NY (w/ Xylos)
June 16 | Sellersville Theater | Sellersville, PA (w/ American Babies)
June 17 | River Street Jazz Cafe | Wilkes Barre, PA (w/ Steve Kimock)
June 18 | The Bearsville Theater | Woodstock, NY (w/ Charlie Hunter)
June 24 | Tractor Tavern | Seattle, WA (w/ Surprise Me Mr. Davis)
June 25 | Doug Fir | Portland, OR (w/ Surprise Me Mr. Davis)
June 26 | Axe & Fiddle | Cottage Grove, OR (w/ Surprise Me Mr. Davis)
June 27 | Winnipeg Jazz Festival | Winnipeg, Canada
June 28 | Montreal Jazz Festival | Montreal, Canada (***solo piano)
June 29 | Toronto Jazz Festival | Toronto, Canada
July 2 | High Sierra Music Festival | Quincy, CA
August 9 & 10 | Fly Me To The Moon | Telluride, CO (***SOLD OUT)
August 12 & 13 | Dazzle | Denver, CO

*all shows Marco Benevento Trio unless otherwise noted.