Album Review: Marco Benevento – Between The Needles and Nightfall

The majority of music that we listen to today is hard to define. It’s even debatable to say that genres  still existent nowadays, but we try to classify when we can. When it comes to the music that New Jersey born, now Brooklyn-based keyboardist Marco Benevento makes, people who believe that genres are obsolete can use Benevento’s work as an example in a killer rebuttal.

Benevento has had a way with music ever since he was a young kid growing up in Wyckoff, NJ. An ardent experimenter, the skilled piano player took his interests with seriousness and enrolled in Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he was exposed to a contemporary music education. With his third solo album, Between the Needles and Nightfall, Benevento and his trio have no need for words on any of the 11 songs on this collection here as they overdub baby grand piano and a multiplicity of string arrangements with electronic sound-crafters. With his 2009 album Me Not Me, Benevento took popular songs by Leonard Cohen, My Morning Jacket, and others, re-interpreting them to his own liking. Needles and Nightfall does the same when Benevento performs the sassy melody of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” on his vintage upright piano, but this effort is less about the reinvention of past greats and more about what the lead man can mix up himself.

Though the usage of melodies from previous hit songs elevated Benevento’s career to one that became noted by a wider fan base, Benevento’s decision to compose original scores for this effort gave him a greater capacity for creativity but also a bigger chance for failure, as originality from scratch is a hard thing to come by when producing art. But with all of the intricacies that pervade throughout and a soundboard that allows Benevento to play with different pitches and sounds in the studio, he uses his tools in tandem with his ear for melody that evokes a mix of moods.

The album’s title track “Between the Needles” kicks off as an inhibited piano ballad that livens up midway through with the help from its passionate percussion counterpart and then fades off with quiet ambient sounds. There are beginnings, middles, and ends to Benevento’s songs that give them a storybook sensibility and the imagery you can play with while listening is half the fun of the experience. Recorded in just three days, it’s dubious to think that there was much time for sleep because the album is one of the most anti-minimalist collection of songs in recent memory. Because there’s no vocals derailing listeners from the music, the spacial ambiance and glitches in songs like “Snow Flake” and other parts like on “Wolf Trap” that highlight Benevento’s violent disposition can be appreciated without distraction.

Imaginative at heart, Benevento demands you to be too when engaging with his work. Otherwise, you probably are missing out on something special. Trained and driven to experiment with chords and melodies with the intention of getting a little dirty along the way, Benevento’s collisional approach is refreshing and absolutely delightful.


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