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Published: 2007/05/22
by Dan Alford

The Benevento/Russo Duo (Acoustic), The Knitting Factory, NYC- Early Show 4/19

It’s rare, maybe unheard of, for Marco Benevento and Joe Russo to play an acoustic show. It’s just as rare for the main space at the Knitting Factory to be crowded with chairs but such was the case for the early gig, much to the consternation of late comers and a few younger fans. It was a jazz club atmosphere, and jazz club performance as the duo sat down and moved into a sweeping, dramatic jam to open, with chucks of drumsticks flying almost immediately. The music shifted toward the eccentric, Marco simultaneously playing a toy piano and a toy xylophone, a multi colored refugee from a child’s nursery, and Joe tapping and jingling all sorts of oddities. It was all rhythmic and kind of jumpy, but calmed as Marco moved to the baby grand, only to be pushed by big bass drum into a classically styled Duo jam.

“Welcome to the Chair Factory. Sit down and be quiet.”

The show was full of creepy, pseudo-Slavic passages, carried mostly by the piano, and more sound showmanship. At one point Joe draped a blue cloth over his whole kit, thereafter playing muffled beats and stilled cymbals. It slowly slipped off, allowing the music to morph on its own, changing both its character and its energy. At another point, Marco was inside the piano, plucking the strings instead of the keys, Joe playing alongside with his bare hands. To watch the pair from a seat is to remember just how closely and quickly and easily they read each other, especially when they’re in the heat of it all. The responses are nearly preternatural. Three or four songs in, Marco was playing a simple little figure while Joe became more and more furious, snapping a single cymbal shot that literally made kid in front of me jump in the air.

The set closed with a run of familiar tunes, a cool “Play, Pause, Stop”, chanting and all; “Bye-Ya”, “Best Reason to Buy the Sun”, and a self indulgent “Baby Elephant Walk” > “Scratchitti.” The show closed with a sweet little cover of George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill,” and to make the obvious comparison, the show was anything but.

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