Marco Benevento‚ possibly more than anyone else on the scene today‚ has done a terrific job of blurring the lines between jazz‚ jam and indie rock in both his playing and writing. The guy wears his influences on the sleeves of his vintage t-shirt but is at the same time wholly original.
On Saturday he came to the swanky New York City club Drom‚ accompanied by Reed Mathis on bass and Jon Fishman on drums. While Marco has an impressive following of his own‚ Fishman -- though he may not look or act like it -- is a bona fide rock star‚ and I got the impression that a good portion of the crowd was there to cheer him on.
The trio opened with a gorgeous cover of My Morning Jacket's "Golden." I noticed that a number of people near me were familiar with the tune‚ another reminder that no matter what musical setting you're in‚ the MMJ language is universal. The night also saw the band cover songs by Deerhoof‚ the Zombies (which won me over) and Ween (which won a few of my friends over). The trio also played a few tunes off of Marco's album Invisible Baby.
Marco was in control behind a grand piano that he sometimes manipulated with the half dozen or so pedals that rested just above the keyboard. He has a delicate‚ expressive touch and plays percussively -- though he never really slams the keys the way some players do.
Reed Mathis kept things anchored with a mostly straight-ahead approach‚ though sometimes his bass fills could almost be mistaken for runs on an electric guitar. He also head bangs a lot.
Going into the show Fishman was the group's question mark. With Phish being out of commission for the last few years and Jon living way up in Maine and only playing a few short runs with the Everyone Orchestra and Yonder Mountain String Band‚ everybody seemed curious to see if the chops were still there. (I bet everyone with Hampton tickets is curious too.) I am glad to say those chops are definitely still there.
The first few songs saw Fish taking it relatively easy. While not exactly tentative‚ he mostly stayed in the pocket‚ not trying anything too fancy. As the night went on‚ and he got more encouragement from his bandmates and the crowd‚ Fish got more comfortable. By the time Marco called for him to take a drum solo‚ which is usually not his thing‚ Jon was all smiles. Not only did he give Marco some tight support throughout the night‚ but he also broke out his patented big‚ explosive fills. I was also impressed with how well he seemed to know the material.
Dave Driewitz subbed on bass for a tune and guitarist Scott Meztger played on "Carnival of Souls." Scott's playing fit perfectly‚ and I wouldn't have minded if he had stayed longer.
More than anything‚ this was a piano-jazz show‚ though elements of funk‚ jam and rock were clearly all in play as well. I thought the trio meshed extremely well considering they haven't had too much time together.
If people came out solely based on their knowledge of Fishman's playing with Phish‚ they may have gotten something a bit different than what they expected‚ but I'm willing to bet they went home happy. Hopefully Marco hangs on to Fishman's phone number and we get to see them play together some more in the future.