Keyboardist Marco Benevento to defy labels Friday at the Mint
In the realm of jazz or elsewhere, few musicians approach the piano with the same spirit of invention as Marco Benevento. Long tangled with the "jam band" scene that exists on some vague and oddly dismissible orbit between jazz, blues and progressive rock, Benevento comes to the Mint Friday night with a trio of former Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Andy Borger.
Admittedly, Benevento's music seemingly goes out of its way to avoid easy classification. On albums such as 2008's "Invisible Baby," he toyed with an array of keyboard textures, airy percussion and electronic flourishes reminiscent of Brad Mehldau's "Largo," while his most recent release "Between the Needles & Nightfall" carries a more immediate, rock-oriented drive that could feel about as accessible as an instrumental take on Elton John.
Though unconcerned about where his music is defined, Benevento was one of the performers featured in the excellent "Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense" documentary from 2009 as part of a new vanguard in jazz, and justifiably so. New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who also was featured in the documentary, caused a stir on the jazz Twitterverse this week with a blog post that opens with "Jazz died in 1959" and goes on to argue (frequently in coarse language, just as an advisory) that jazz is a "limited idea to begin with" that is "haunted by its own hungry ghosts." Controversial stuff, certainly, but if what he's fighting against is the idea that musicians such as himself and Benevento can be marginalized for thinking differently about their art than what a genre supposedly defines, more power to him.
Keep reading for an exclusive listen of "Escape Horse," a song from Benevento's new 7-inch single that features drummer Matt Chamberlain and Phish's Mike Gordon. It may not sound like anyone's conventional idea of jazz with its heavy, head-bobbing rhythm and swirling, echo-drenched mix of piano and keyboards, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Marco Benevento, with Mike Mangan's Big Organ Trio, The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. Tonight, 9 p.m. $18.
-- Chris Barton
Photo: Marco Benevento live at Largo in 2009. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times