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Quartet the Killer (Benevento, Russo, Apfelbaum and Roseman), Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA – 2/24

The fourth and final show of Marco Benevento's run of Tuesday nights at
Yoshi's in Oakland was billed as Quartet the Killer. As the name
elliptically alludes to, the show consisted of Neil Young covers and was
performed with Duo-mate Joe Russo and blowers Peter Apfelbaum and Josh
Roseman. And if, like most of Benevento's projects, the show was partially
designed to get Jazz and Rock to kiss and make up, this one didn't stop
with a peck – it ended with a full-on slobbery make-out session.

Of the four nights, this one felt the most like a rock show, or at least
as much as is possible in a place where you can order unagi. There were
herbaceous plumes in the line outside, the place was packed, and
table-girded head banging seemed almost appropriate (as long as you didn't
bump into your neighbor's hamachi). The affinity of the band with Young's
material was immediately clear as the band opened with "The Needle and the
Damage Done." Benevento turned and plied his trusty noise knobs, creating
a hazy fuzz, all the while playing Young's hauntingly straight ahead
melody line. This contrast – between static and clarity, between harshness
and softness – is fundamental to the sense of dreaminess in both Young's
and Benevento's art. Somehow, the background created by Marco's (and
Russo's) swells of noise mimicked the effect of Young's droning voice; it
framed the melodies and made them all the more striking, wrenching. And it
showed that although Young might play the Rock and Marco plays the Jazz,
the dynamic and impact work quite similarly on the ears and heart.

But Crazy Horse also likes to rage, and Benevento obliged on this front
too. "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Powderfinger" were brought to noisy
crescendos, punctuated by Apfelbaum's squeals. Surprisingly, though, the
biggest rocker of the night came in the encore, out of "Old Man." Young's
mournful acoustic version, which points at a likely futile attempt to form
a connection to Dear Old Dad, became an anthemic rager in Quartet the
Killer's hands. Russo seemed to ride telepathically on Benevento's leads,
while Apfelbaum and Roseman brought not just noise, but groove. Rather
than feel all lonesome about the alienation from Pops, the band seemed to
celebrate the energy of youth (that might have been partly responsible for
the rift in the first place). And they reminded the audience that it
wasn't just any Tuesday – it was Fat Tuesday. The Mardi Gras spirit that
turns sadness to joy prevailed, and flipped Young's reading of the song on
its head. It seemed appropriate to end the show and the run with a New
Orleans vibe, nodding to the place where Rock and Jazz have never had to
hide their love away, where they've always been free to grope in the open.

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