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Snoe.down kicks off with Marco Benevento

The 2013 Snoe.down festival kicks off with a welcome party at the Wobbly Barn on Thursday night. Headlining the event is keyboardist Marco Benevento, joined by opening act Mike Pederson.

A native of New Jersey, Marco Benevento started playing piano at age 7. He then played in local bands and the high school jazz band. After high school he attended Berklee College of Music graduating in 1999. He has been involved in the contemporary and experimental jazz scene in New York City and points north for most of his career. His most well-known project, The Benevento Russo Duo, is a collaboration with longtime friend and drummer Joe Russo. The Hammond organ and Wurlitzer electric piano help create their famous experimental and improvisational sound. The Duo toured with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon of Phish in 2006 and appeared several times at the Bonnaroo and Lollapaoolza music festivals.

In the last few years Be snevento has been working on his own band and has released several solo albums. He describes his sound as instrumental piano rock. "It is instrumental, which puts you into a whole other category," he explained. "I say, piano led rock; I am playing an acoustic piano, so there is no synthesizer or anything. I say rock because our music is way more loud and upbeat than jazz or jam for that matter. Sometimes we stretch stuff, we are all improvisers but we don't do that with every song."
The current rhythm section consists of drummer Andrew Borger and bassist Dave Dreiwitz.

The most recent album, TigerFace might surprise fans of his music because the first two tracks feature something new: vocals.
He says the album is more "on the rock side of things. It's a little bit more accessible, a little bit easier to grasp, it's very melodic. I collaborated with a lot more people to make this record. I wound up moving from Brooklyn to Woodstock, NY and that move put a big halt to me working on the record. There was a longer simmering period where I could listen to the tracks a lot more. I think that simmering effect allowed me to bring out the melodies or maybe cut things shorter and morph the record into an instrumental rock record." 

When hard core jazz fans hear that their favorite artist is adding a vocalist, moving towards rock, or trying to be more accessible, they sometimes get nervous. When Chris May from allaboutjazz.com reviewed the new album, he echoed these concerns, but reassured fans that "renegade instrumentalist and keyboardist/sonic adventurist Marco Benevento" hasn't sold out. In fact he says "Benevento has created his most audacious album to date. Highly recommended, TigerFace is totally impossible to categorize and totally wonderful, and if the addition of a vocalist on two tracks gets Benevento more airplay than he has previously enjoyed, it is about time."

Marco Benevento is no stranger to moe. fans. "I've actually been playing moe.down (moe.'s summer festival) since 2005," he said. "One of the guitarists for moe., Al Schnier has told me a handful of times that he likes the records that I've made and we 'geek out' together on keyboards and gear and stuff. He's had me as a special guest with moe. at the Roseland Ballroom and we are just sort of fans of each other," he said, adding "moe. throws a great party, those guys are freakin' real rock stars."

Benevento is excited to return to Vermont and check out Killington. "We love going up to Burlington and we have played in Vermont a handful of times," he said. "We did a cool residency at this little coffee shop called Radio Bean. Only like 70 or 100 people could fit in so we packed the place every night. We played there every week for a month and got to know some locals." They've also played Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and most recently the Higher Ground with Rubblebucket Orchestra on New Year's Eve. "I love going to Vermont to play music," said Benevento.

Photo by Michael-Didonna