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Marco Benevento: The Jammy Side Of Jazz

Berklee-educated jazz keyboardist Marco Benevento is defined by two things players with similar training often strive to avoid: jam-band associations and plainspoken, hooky melodies. He's embraced the jam scene's famously loyal fan base and collaborated with its players, from the workmanlike to the iconic. His original repertoire exploits pop and rock values, with the bold sonic textures of post-rock, electronic music and indie rock upholding tunes as hummable as those of movie themes, '80s pop or Beatles standards.

On his new album, Me Not Me, the pop and rock correlations are made literal, with covers of songs by Deerhoof, Beck, Leonard Cohen, George Harrison and, in the case of "Golden," My Morning Jacket, the powerhouse rock band with a stylistic wanderlust also appreciated in jam circles. The song plays to MMJ's alt-country roots, resembling some composite of Gram Parsons and AM-radio soft rock. (Case in point: The song was covered by America on the band's surprisingly fine 2007 comeback, Here & Now.) In Benevento's hands, this bittersweet line suggests a lost cocktail-hour standard passed through a Kid A-era Radiohead filter. It's a strange juxtaposition, but an effective one — his music is both adventurous and approachable.

Thanks to The Bad Plus' intense reconstructions and lyrical covers by Brad Mehldau (with whom Benevento studied), there's a strong precedent for rock interpretations in modern jazz piano, but Benevento's electrified model is fiercely personal. By making himself accessible to the jazz, jam and rock worlds, his work defies all those schools.

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Evan Haga