Recently relocating from Brooklyn to upstate New York, pianist, composer, and ‚??sound sculptor‚?Ě Marco Benevento has made his career bending sound waves and breaking down genres. Traveling with bassist Dave Dreiwitz of Ween and drummer Andy Borger, who has played with the likes of Tom Waits and Ani DiFranco, the 35-year-old recently hit the road in support of his latest solo effort, ‚??TigerFace,‚?Ě released through his own label, The Royal Potato Family.
The trio will be stopping at the River Street Jazz Caf√© on Friday, Dec. 7, but before they return to NEPA, The Weekender wanted to ask the versatile Benevento about his tricked-out piano and what, exactly, a ‚??TigerFace‚?Ě is.
travel with a customized 1927 upright acoustic piano. Why did you choose that particular instrument?
Marco Benevento: It basically started out of slight frustration, because if you want to play the piano at a gig, you either have to find a gig with a piano at the venue or you need to being your own piano. Or you just have to suck it up and play on a digital keyboard, and it‚??s really distracting for me to play on one of those things because it‚??s just not the same ‚?? it doesn‚??t look the same, it doesn‚??t sound the same, it doesn‚??t feel the same. So I looked into getting these little pianos that are 61 notes that can fit in the back of a van; they made them that small for train cars and bars back in the day.
The first time I saw one was at (the club) Largo in (Los Angeles)‚?Ľ So I hopped on Craig‚??s List and started searching for one. I found more than one, and since then, I‚??ve actually collected five or six of them.
W: How have you honed this piano to make your distinct sound?
MB: To really get it sounding how you want it to sound live is a challenge as well, which led me to putting transducer pick-ups, or guitar pick-ups, in the piano as a way to pick up the sound because you can‚??t just throw a mic on the piano and play a rock show with your drummer playing right next to you onstage.
I basically have this hot-rodded mini piano that is run through guitar pedals and guitar amps. It‚??s my ax; I get the sound that I want. I can put treble on the piano, I can put reverb on the piano, I can put distortion on the piano and get a wide variety of sounds from one instrument in one evening.
W: Your music is often labeled as ‚??jazz‚?Ě or ‚??experimental.‚?Ě How would you personally describe it?
MB: I would say that these days, compared to maybe four years ago, our show is more of a rock show. It‚??s instrumental piano rock, basically. We have a lot of other sounds going on as well ‚?? a looper that has a bunch of pre-recorded sounds on it. A lot of the sounds on the records that I‚??ve made are in this little box that we trigger live and play along to. Lately, we‚??ve been playing for bigger audiences, so there‚??s standing room, and people are dancing more. Whereas in a jazz show, you might picture people sitting down and kind of contemplating, eyes closed kind of thing. Our show is more eye-opening. We even travel with a sound guy and a lighting guy.
W: Where does the title ‚??TigerFace‚?Ě come from?
MB: It‚??s really funny ‚?? so many people have asked me that same question, and when I look back at all the other records that I‚??ve made, the three records that I‚??ve made on my own, no one has ever asked me that question, and I have more stories about the other titles than I do about this one! This is the way this title came out ‚?? my friend had a band called TigerFace. That‚??s about it, and I thought, ‚??Wow, what a great name! I want to use that for a record!‚?Ě And this was like 10 years ago.
W: How does this album stand out from your previous work?
MB: I feel like the melodies are a lot more catchy. Also, there‚??re vocals on two tracks; I‚??ve never made any songs with vocals before, with lyrics that I wrote. I feel like a lot of those songs with vocals could be on pop radio; it‚??s very accessible music that a lot of people could like versus more instrumental jazz, experimental rock sort of records that I‚??ve put out.
Of the four records I‚??ve made, this the one that I was least prepared for in the studio. I had lots of song sketches, song part ideas. I didn‚??t have much‚?Ľ It was a lot of spontaneous writing and a lot of different versions of bridges and different versions of verses. Just a lot of creative output from everybody in the studio.
W: What can people expect from this upcoming show at the River Street Jazz Caf√©?
MB: Lots of fun. We‚??ve been playing at that venue for a long time, and the owner, Tom, is really sweet and he cooks us some great food, so we‚??re always in a great mood. We‚??ll definitely be playing a lot of new tracks from the record and keeping people dancing.
Marco Benevento Trio, Dec. 7, doors 8 p.m., show 10 p.m., River Street Jazz Caf√© (667 N. River St., Plains). $12.