Defining Generations

Best Reason to Buy the Sun (Ropeadope Records)
Benevento/Russo Duo

By John Bohannon

When constantly searching for the new thing to listen to, it's hard to tell what's fresh and what's just being refurbished. Take the organ and the drum kit for example. These instruments have been used so repeatedly, especially among the jam band scene, where it seems nearly impossible to hash something out that can completely define so many generations of music? Maybe I am being too adamant about it, but I'm here to tell you that these two guys, Joe Russo and Marco Benevento, have cast a rather incredible mold on their studio debut Best Reason to Buy the Sun.

The transition flow from one genre to another sets them apart and reaches out to such a widely based audience. No wonder this band has garnered such a following over the past year or so. These fellows are no strangers of the road, averaging more than 200 shows a year since Benevento signed on at the Knitting factory nearly three years ago.

Coming from Brooklyn, it's easy to tell their wide array of influences from the things around them. Joe Russo mixes a fusion of the likes of John Bonham, jazzman extraordinaire Max Roach and even accompanies himself with the electronica samples of the drummer's enemy, the drum machine. Marco Benevento flows freely through organ riffs bringing to mind the playing of John Medeski, Radiohead and a plethora of jazz greats.

As previous evidence shows, simplicity in music can do wonders for those that know how to use it right. Look at these generations of folk singers that have been using the same three-chord progression since the 60's and yet it's still popping out hits. Benevento and Russo have built upon this ideal by using repetitive riffs and basing their expansions on a solid groove. On the track "Welcome Red," the same progression is used throughout the whole song, but it switches frequently from what could be assumed as a hip-hop backtrack to a mind-shifting rock/fusion wall of sound. "Sunny's Song" would be the perfect addition to any chill-out mix tape, while the bass and drums would gain them a high-five from the indie rockers.

Les Claypool and Bernie Worrell would be proud of their peers if they were to stumble upon "Scratchitti." This is where they excel in making the simplistic complex, by making it sound as if there is much more going on then there really is. With the exception of a few guitar riffs and a horn here and there, the drums and organ create such a powerful dynamic with just two instruments.

After fooling around with every mind-bending genre, they finally head back towards their roots while playing some classy jazz. In the nearly eight-minute, stripped-down acoustic piano and drum kit duet "Three Question Marks," simplicity is thrown out the window and their sense of avant-garde comes into action. In "Bronko's Blues," it's as if John Medeski and Billy Martin were mentors of these newcomers into the post-bop world. The closing extravaganza "My Pet Goat" is a breathtakingly beautiful epic with quite possibly the strongest drum tracks on the album and skillfully arranged buildups.

Not knowing really where to categorize these guys is possibly one of the greatest compliments I can give. This leaves open endless doors of opportunity and thousands of new fans to reach. If there is any new noise on the streets in the upcoming months, I can go ahead and predict that the Benevento/Russo Duo will cause a little bit of that racket.