According to iTunes‚ Marco Benevento plays jazz. Maybe someone at iTunes saw that he's labelmates with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey -- which has the genre right there in their name‚ so it must be true! Whatever the reason‚ iTunes got it wrong. While Benevento has the same kind of searching mentality that makes Brad Mehldau the genius he is‚ TigerFace shows Benevento has influences and muses as far from jazz as the Curiosity Rover is from the nearest Starbucks.
The synth riff at the start of "Limbs of a Pine" takes you back to when Peter Gabriel was shaving his head‚ but the Dubstep beat Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz and über-drummer Matt Chamberlain drop on your head brings you firmly back to the present. Sax player/co-composer Kalmia Traver's vocals land somewhere between a religious dirge and a teenager's complaint‚ but you put that in harmony over the vicious grove Benevento's established and the combination is utterly delicious. Benevento's keyboard layers almost have a bagpipe sound -- and I mean that in a good way -- as he hangs you on the hook and lets you dangle in the backblast.
Ignoring the possibility of being sued for giving us whiplash‚ TigerFace snaps us back and forth between musical times. The harpsichords and desolate vocals (again by Traver) on "This is How It Goes" conjure up Genesis before Phil Collins was PHIL COLLINS; Andrew Barr's drums are certainly as muscular as anything Collins did in that era. Benevento's piano seems to literally come from the past on "Fireworks‚" which adds to the piece's marvelous sense of nostalgia. The piano on "Going West" plays on a hissing soundtrack from an early-Talkie film about the old wagon trains‚ complete with clip-clop sound effects… and all that gets blown away in a nuclear blast of garage-band psychedelia as the movie morphs from Stagecoach to Vanishing Point‚ and the Indians and the Highway Patrol can both eat Benevento's dust.
And so it goes: Arcade Fire‚ Radiohead‚ soul jazz‚ gutbucket blues‚ and any number of other influences find a home somewhere in Benevento's skin-tight‚ hook-driven narratives. Tom Biller and Bryce Goggin should get a lifetime achievement award for recording it all and mixing it down to the righteous package it is. Even on slower pieces like the dissolute "Soma" or the session coda "Basilicata‚" the stunning electricity that hits you right from the top of TigerFace stays strong and true‚ even when it's just down to Benevento and the rhythm section on "Do What She Told You‚" with Benevento playing glorious barrelhouse piano over Dreiwitz' fuzz-lined bass and Chamberlain's monster drums.
Benevento could have kept it all like that and I'd have been very‚ very happy. But as we clearly see (even if iTunes doesn't)‚ Marco Benevento is about so much more. He is‚ in many ways‚ his own genre of music‚ and if that isn't DIY‚ then nothing is.
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