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
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:
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
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