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Published: 2010/02/01
by Doug Darroch

Marco Benevento & Friends - Live in NYC: The Sullivan Hall Residency

The Royal Potato Family/Shine A Light Productions

Marco Benevento takes this residency stuff literally. “Welcome to my home,” he says to the camera backstage at Sullivan Hall near the start of this DVD, which captures the remarkable spirit of his five-show run of Thursday gigs in January 2008, each featuring a different set of musician friends. Indeed, Marco brought his own Baldwin grand piano along with his circuit-bent toys, sampling keyboard and effects pedals from his Brooklyn home to the venue in Greenwich Village. On the main wall, he hung the artwork of Baptiste Ibar, including the gorgeous piece that graces the cover of Marco’s first trio release, Invisible Baby. And he was the perfect host, making sure that his friends on the stage and on the floor in the intimate club all had a blast — much as he had in the November 2006 residency that yielded the Ropeadope three-CD set, Live at Tonic.

As someone who was fortunate enough to attend the final two of the shows on this DVD, I was eager to see what I had missed in the first three. Each show was represented in the 100-minute main program as well as the hour’s worth of bonus material (worth the $15 price of the DVD by itself). Interviews with the musicians are used skillfully between performance snippets.

The first one was senior citizens’ night, with prolific drummer Bobby Previte and Sex Mob slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein joining DJ Olive and Marco for some heavy jazz. Brad Barr and Joe Russo were the featured guests on January 10. With his longtime Slip buddy and the drummer half of the Benevento Russo Duo, magic broke out. Barr’s guitar work was supercharged, possibly from the race to get to the gig on time after being detained on his drive from Canada, as we are told in an interview clip.

The third Thursday featured Slip bassist Marc Friedman and Stanton Moore, Marco’s drummer bandmate in Garage a Trois, with guitarist Dave Fiuczynski sitting in. They are represented by a smoking version of “Twin Killers,” the Deerhoof song that Marco has made his own, plus Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

The fourth show was the real petri dish, Marco joined for a night of inspired improvisation by Billy Martin and his drumming soulmate Calvin Weston, Skerik on tenor sax, Kaki King on lap steel, and bassist Jonas Hellborg. “There weren’t any train wrecks whatsoever,” King says afterwards. “We were tight with each other, and excited.” The residency concludes with the official _Invisible Baby_CD release party, with Reed Mathis on bass and Andrew Barr on drums, performing the Marco Trio catalog with gusto. On the DVD, we get “Bus Ride>The Real Morning Party,” Pink Floyd’s “Fearless,” and “Nobody Does It Better,” for which opening-act Brad Barr provides a guitar interpretation that Carly Simon and Marvin Hamlisch never could have imagined.

Using three cameras, Shine A Light Productions ironically managed to shoot these shows without shining a light — totally at the mercy of stage lighting. Wisely, Jay Cooper’s trippy visual-projection eye candy is well-represented. Director Karina Mackenzie has given us a DVD that captures the essence of Marco and his buds, jamming as if they were in Marco’s basement and not in his other “residence.”

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