The New Cool: On Preferring An Artist's Early Work

Apr 14, 2017

Singer, songwriter and keyboard player Marco Benevento was in town recently and I didn’t go. I’d rather see the keyboard player leave the singer/songwriter behind.

I first heard about Benevento from his second album, "Me Not Me," a mix of his original tunes and smart covers of obscure songs by artists ranging from Led Zeppelin to My Morning Jacket.

A personal favorite is getting airtime on this week’s episode of The New Cool; check out the electronically treated sounds of his acoustic piano on “Twin Killers” by art pop band Deerhoof.

Just piano, bass and drums, it’s a fine example of his early experiments with the sound of his instrument. Benevento kept the melodies straightforward, but tweaked the piano by running the sounds through guitar pickups, delay and distortion effects and a Fender Super Reverb amp. Other keyboard sounds get layered on top, with the bass and drums keeping it all nailed to the song’s core.

My next encounter was when Marco replaced guitarist Charlie Hunter in the band Garage A Trois (Skerik-saxes, Mike Dillon-vibes, Stanton Moore-drums) on their fourth album, "Power Patriot."

The band’s sound changed with electric keys replacing electric guitar, but the group’s funky percussive style remained. That and the follow-up "Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil" are dynamite.

Then a couple years ago, I caught the Marco Benevento Band at a music festival — and he was singing.

It’s not my thing. That said, I don’t like some incredibly famous singers – Neil Diamond, John Fogerty, Celine Dion all send me screaming from the room. The human singing voice is a mysterious and polarizing thing. I don’t mind Marco Benevento’s voice, but I wish he would just play the keys.

His move to the microphone is certainly not slowing Benevento’s career. His style has moved closer to danceable rock music, and to the noodling jam bands like Phish (big fans of his) and Umphrey’s McGee. If you enjoy modern indie rock and you like to dance, give a listen to his recent single “Dropkick”.

The Royal Potato Family record label he launched with friend and manager Kevin Calabro is home to New Cool favorites Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Wil Blades and the aforementioned Garage A Trois, and I will continue to check in on Benevento’s music, hoping for a new GAT album or a return to his instrumental work. Until then, I hope he doesn’t mind if I stick to his old stuff.

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.