"I'm very much into improvising music with my friends and people I meet for the first time these days," Benevento notes via e-mail. "I love hearing different drummers' interpretations of the same tune, or different guitarists' or saxophonists'."
He describes the loose collaborations as a "bright new discovery awareness zone" for the musicians. Improvising with new collaborators is "something that's different every time and nothing is expected by anyone, including the audience. So there is that totally open feeling of, 'OK, all I've got is my ears, I have no idea what's going to happen ... GO!' And, ultimately, the result is a gradual collective unfolding process that is truly satisfying and somewhat indescribable."
Benevento, 31, was raised in New Jersey and studied piano at Berklee. Resettling in New York City after graduating, he ran into a school friend, drummer Joe Russo, at a Medeski, Martin & Wood performance, and they formed a free-jazz combo, the Benevento/Russo Duo and, together, have released four CDs.
Another link between the two genres is the loose collectives of musicians that perform together in various combinations. In 2006, the duo performed as part of Trey Anastasio's band, which included bassist Mike Gordon, both of the über-jamband Phish. Benevento's trio consists of bassist Reed Mathis, who plays full-time with both the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Tea Leaf Green, as well as drummer Andrew Barr, who performs with the Slip, among other bands. While Barr is currently on tour in Europe, another of Benevento's "friends" will sit in behind the kit Friday: Phish drummer John Fishman.
He admits to being a fan of Phish and of how the band incorporated humor into its music. But the band's main influence on him comes back around to improvisation.
"They used do these circle jams that involved 'passing the ball around' melodically and rhythmically — and slowly getting to new worlds within their improv," " says Benevento.
At the Horse, Benevento will be performing music from his album Invisible Baby, as well as from an upcoming CD to be released in early '09.
"This new disc is going to be called Me Not Me. It'll be different from Invisible Baby in that most of the songs are cover tunes," he says. "One particular song that'll be on the new record is a song by Leonard Cohen called 'Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.' I've been listening to this song for nine years now — I've played it at least one-thousand times and every time it hits me deep in there."
You may also hear "Golden" by My Morning Jacket, as well as many of Benevento's own songs. Otherwise, the best advice is to leave any expectations at home. -Bill Clifford