There was a time when collaboration was to be expected: when a listener could stumble into a club and expect to find the finest musicians in a given scene sharing ideas‚ sidemen‚ and the overall momentum of musical inspiration. Those days may again be upon us. To complete a month-long residency at NYC's Sullivan Hall (formerly the Lion's Den)‚ and to celebrate the release of his first solo studio offering‚ Invisible Baby‚ Marco Benevento assembled 3/4 of the album's roster for a blowout that stretched the album's fiercely creative material into the wee hours of the morning.
He spared no detail. From free bowls of candy to the album's artwork on the club walls‚ this was Marco's night. I'd like to say I was surprised to find Brad Barr (The Slip) tuning up when I first walked in‚ but this is the sort of thing that Marco has engendered in his music and come to represent in the strange‚ parallel-dimension of the jazz world he occupies-a reckless‚ smiling neglect of what can be done and ought to be expected. While Brad looped vocal clips from a hand-held tapedeck through his guitar pickups‚ a sense of great anticipation filled the room. True to the unlikely combination of musical elements due to effervesce onstage‚ the crowd was a rare blend of suits‚ dreadlocks‚ hipsters‚ college kids‚ older folks‚ men and women‚ musicians and journalists. Weaving great swatches of reverb-drenched Nashville guitar‚ Brad filled the room with reminiscences of both Bill Frisell and Nels Cline. Likewise‚ he reminisced vocally about the best years of his life‚ spent with his band The Slip. Rather than a eulogy‚ though‚ the statement was to be taken as affirmation of what has become a great renaissance within this group of musicians‚ bound less by band affiliation than their endless drive to collaborate.
Triggering the signature banjo line on "Bus Ride" from a pedal board at his feet‚ Marco launched the climactic post-rock anthem that opens the album to begin the first set. Andrew Barr (The Slip) set a primal pulse beside a bass rig twice the size of Reed Mathis' (JFJO‚ Tea Leaf Green) standard fare. The song peaked in a blaze of orange mushroom clouds‚ projected by a VJ live onstage. After "Record Book‚" Marco dispensed a bag full of percussion instruments for the crowd to play on the cheeky "Real Morning Party." Despite some ragged edges and apparent stiffness in Andrew's playing‚ the tune left the crowd glowing. Two covers followed: Deerhoof's "Twin Killers‚" and "Golden" by My Morning Jacket. Returning to Invisible Baby‚ the set ended with "Atari‚" "Ruby‚" and "Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody?" which marked the band's first true improvisational departure of the evening.
At set break‚ Marco introduced the premier of the music video for "Real Morning Party‚" directed by Michael DiDonna. Shot in a series of frames‚ a la The Brady Bunch‚ it features dancing feet‚ tapping fingers‚ and Marco parading around his kitchen in a bathrobe‚ awaiting a shot of espresso.
With Pink Floyd's "Fearless‚" by now a standard part of Marco's repertoire‚ the band began a wholly inspired second set. Breathing vast amounts of space into the simple chord structure‚ the tune became thrillingly amorphous. Delving at times into dark‚ dubby pockets‚ patience prevailed and gave way to some of Marco's most dexterous work on his baby grand‚ his hands moving in sweeping chromatic fashion. Andrew‚ at last‚ seemed at ease and began to prove his musculature. As for Reed‚ his lines remained spare‚ supportive‚ and as a result‚ propulsive. The song segued seamlessly into the dissonant "If You Keep Asking Me‚" before relaxing into "You Must Be a Lion." Just in case the crowd hadn't yet had their fill‚ another romp through "Real Morning Party" followed.
It was pushing 2 a.m. when the band exhausted its repertoire and invited Brad Barr onstage. The thing is‚ they were just getting started. "Mephisto‚" and "She's Not There‚" by the Zombies‚ rounded out the show. There was a time when all night jam sessions were to be expected. That time is now.