Marco Benevento proves that a lot can be accomplished on the 88 keys of a piano, both live in concert and on his new album, Let It Slide.
The songwriter and bandleader has experimented with piano’s funk, R&B, indie-rock and pop elements since he was a teenager.
“When I was a kid, I really loved putting my headphones on and plugging in my synthesizers,” Benevento says. “I had an old Korg PolySix analog synth and a four-track recorder. My musical curiosity started just like that.”
In college, Benevento dove deep into instrumental music and debuted in New York City’s experimental jazz scene in the late ’90s.
Now marking two decades on the scene, Benevento’s recent output has returned to the synths and analog inspirations of his youth for a sound that those who know him best have dubbed “hot dance piano rock.”
“Over the last 10 years we’ve made seven records, and the evolution of all that music has gone from a sit-down audience to 500 people in the room dancing,” Benevento says.
For Let It Slide, Benevento paired his songs with producer and multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels, whom Benevento befriended after filling in for him on tour with the Arcs at the request of Arcs member, the late Richard Swift.
“I went down the rabbit hole and checked out Leon, and was blown away by all his records,” Benevento says. “And I was at my wit’s end with my demos for this record, and I thought, ‘What if I asked Leon to help me make this record?’ I didn’t even know him, but I thought that if I could get my record to sound close to one of his records, that would be cool with me.”
Musically, Let It Slide works as a culmination of Benevento’s talents, showcasing the songwriter’s roots as a post-jazz improviser and funky groovemaster as well as delivering emotionally affective lyrics.
Taking the album on the road, Benevento plays at Sweetwater Music Hall on Dec. 9 in a trio with bassist Karina Rykman and drummer Dave Butler and with support from opening jazz duo the Mattson 2.
“It’s (going to be) a dance party, that’s for sure,” Benevento says. “We’re doing 11 shows in a row, I think it is—so we’ll be on fire by the time we get to Mill Valley.”