Benevento’s “Invisible Baby”

Marco Benevento is riding a creative surge. Case in point is the 30-year old keyboardist’s debut studio album Invisible Baby, scheduled for release February 12 on HYENA Records. The collection proves Benevento a sonic innovator in peak form, defying boundaries and blasting through genres to carve out his own universe.  Invisible Baby was recorded in a trio configuration with Benevento joined by bassist Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and drummers Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos) and Andrew Barr (The Slip). Having earned a multitude of young fans and critical acclaim for his visionary electric keyboard work as one half of post rock instrumentalists The Benevento/Russo Duo, here Benevento utilizes acoustic piano as his main voice. His instincts, however, for arranging sound in fresh and unexpected ways remain firmly intact. On Invisible Baby‘s eight original compositions, Benevento runs his piano through projector amps and Leslie speakers, coloring the tracks with Mellotron, Speak N Spell, banjo, a vintage church pump organ and all sorts of circuit bent toys which have become his trademark. 

"When I came to NYC in 2001, my plan was to make a trio record. I studied with Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Werner and Brad Mehldau. I hung with Mehldau and listened to Largo unmixed and mastered at his house in 2001 while I was studying with him," says Benevento. "I played two to three gigs a day in NYC, did the jam sessions and played with some incredible NYC musicians. For me this album fulfills something that I’ve wanted to do since I moved here." 

Invisible Baby‘s highlights include "Bus Ride," which unfolds around a hypnotic banjo figure played by Marco Benevento. There’s a majestic drama to the performance that’s punctuated by Reed Mathis’ distorted bass chords and Matt Chamberlain’s four to the floor, big beat. "Record Book" is an elegant gem, defined by understatement and restraint. Where the listener might expect the piece to crest, Benevento pulls back opting instead for impressionism. If there were still instrumental hit singles, "The Real Morning Party" would be Benevento’s "Green Onions," "Grazin’ In The Grass" or "Rockit." It’s a quirky, feel-good jam with an instantly infectious melody. Simultaneously, it’s one of the album’s best headphone tracks. The melody is played on a Farfisa Fast 2 with a warm blanket of combo organs, Wurlitzer and percussion (including Andrew Barr playing brake pads and silver salad bowl). The gorgeous composition "Ruby," named after Benevento’s baby daughter, came to him in a dream before she was born. As he explains, "what moved me to write this song was the part in my dream when she fell asleep in my arms. I tried to make that mental space last. Also, the circuit bent toys are sort of twisted, but reminiscent of childhood." "Are You The Favorite Person Of Anybody" takes a jazz trio’s approach to exploring the aural and emotional territory of a band like Radiohead. Its melody floats on a warbling bed of Mellotron, gradually gaining momentum and falling away before the trio works itself into an intense crescendo.  

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