Marco Benevento takes lyrical turn, plans visit to Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp.
WILKES-BARRE — Pianist Marco Benevento has experimented with a multitude of sounds in his career — everything from improvisational jazz to psychedelic rock to indie-dance-pop — but his most recent string of albums has taken him further and further down the songwriting rabbit hole.
Benevento — who released his latest studio record “The Story of Fred Short” last year and its accompanying live album “Woodstock Sessions” in February — will perform at 10 p.m. June 16 at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township.
“I’ve been focusing a lot on songwriting and singing and writing music that is basically a bit different than when I first started putting out records on my own,” Benevento said.
Benevento’s first record, “Live at Tonic” documented his month-long residency at the bygone New York City club in 2006, and it showcased his ability to master jazz compositions and improvise on the fly.
His follow up — 2008’s studio album, “Invisible Baby” — contained pop sensibilities like those heard in the delightfully dancy “The Real Morning Party,” but the record was still focused on instrumental, and largely experimental, music.
But over the course of Benevento’s last three studio records, he has emerged as a writer as intent on honing the lyrical side of his creations as the musical.
“That all started with ‘TigerFace,’” Benevento said of his 2012 release, “when Kalmia (Traver) from Rubblebucket sang two songs of mine.”
Created in collaboration with producer and former member of The Shins, Richard Swift, 2014’s aptly named “Swift” saw Benevento singing on every song except one.
The pianist was further influenced when he went on tour with Dan Auerbach-fronted band The Arcs, filling in for Swift on keyboards while Swift was awaiting the birth of his child.
“Those guys are pretty inspiring,” Benevento said. “I’ve gotten hip to new things along the way. If you were to ask a lot of people how they write songs across the the world, they start with lyrics. I was always into jazz and started with music. Now I’m into lyrics and making more radio-friendly stuff.”
Although Benevento’s latest studio work contains shades of main-stream pop with its delectable hooks, it’s also bold in it’s inventiveness and concept.
The album’s B-side, “The Story of Fred Short,” is a seven-song, 20-minute, composition that goes through clear sonic shifts but communicates the cohesiveness of one expertly-constructed work.
Proud of the piece, Benevento intended to give it the attention it deserved on “Woodstock Sessions.”
“When I put out the live record, I made sure to have the complete “Story of Fred Short” on Side A,” he said. “When we do live shows, we play songs from our entire catalogue, so people don’t know which record to get or where to be steered. With this live record … I feel like it’s a focused, ‘This is what the band sounds like now.’”
Benevento’s live band incorporates many sounds into its performances; heavy improvisational rock can make as prominent an appearance as his lighter lyrical sensibilities, but his focus is currently on the latter.
“I got into LCD Soundsystem and Prince, and I love dance music,” Benevento said. “I love playing for people who are standing up and dancing. I’m currently working on a new record, which is an extension of what I’ve been doing.”
When Benevento — who supplements his solo work by performing with longtime friend and collaborator Joe Russo in Benevento/Russo Duo and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead — comes to the Jazz Cafe, he’ll be returning to a place he’s performed at often throughout his career.
What keeps him coming back, he said, is a good relationship with Forty-Fort native and music promoter Tom Moran.
“People don’t realize that musicians come to venues because of hospitality mainly and sound almost immediately after that,” Benevento said. “Pulling up to the River Street Jazz Cafe and meeting someone as eccentric and nice as Tom, you’re like, ‘I’ll play here any time.’
“If we can do well in that market, it’s a good place for us.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Marco Benevento
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River Street, Plains Township
When: 10 p.m. June 16
Additional information: Tickets cost $15 in advance and are available at bit.ly/2qjuAdo. For more information, call 570-822-2992.