21 March 2007

Nedstalgia: I likey me some Joe Russo

Not going to go crazy with this one, but can't let the day passed without remarking that it was this evening 5 years ago that I first had a couple of young dudes blow my mind at the (old) Tap Bar. I had no idea that they'd become what they become to me or to anyone else. Just seemed like a jam session, another in a long line of whacky Joe Russo projects that I was somewhat obsessed with from the previous summer on... it started at the old Lanksy Lounge, moved to Tribeca Blues for a week or two then mutated and moved to Tagine amongst other places. I actually booked an early Duo-esque show with Jake S in the Old Office in October 2001, with Joe & Marco and a couple other dudes jamming out.

Obviously, Benevento & Russo have grown up. Thankfully, the internet exists and I can go back and survey my initial reactions, summed up quite ineloquently in a post to the Freaks list a couple days later. Here is, in almost its entirety that post -- for entertainment purposes only -- I'm happy to report that my feelings have changed not a smidge since that night 5 years ago:

Subject: Just call him "sir"

Posted to the NYC-Freaks list on 3/25/2002

I had the pleasure of checking out some of the Russo/Benevento thing goingon at the Knit Tap Bar on Thursdays late night post-Ryan Adams last week. Between Twilley's yammerings I was able to hear some of that seriously refreshing ear-hugging goodness that Joe Russo has been sloshing about for a while now. While I do not intend to convince any of you of anything because you are much too smart as a group to be tricked into seeing good music, I will
make my argument for you to take the time to check this out this Thursday: I don't think that there is one individual that sums up my vision of where live music should be than Joe Russo. No matter who he is playing with(they always seem to
be silly-talented, even if I've never heard of them or they play in some band that I don't find particularly appealing) or where he is playing (most often some out-of-the-way, cozy hidden treasure of a room) he is playing something that no one else is doing. Improvisation is one word for it, but his mantra seems to stem from something even more original than just "winging it." Everytime I hear him it seems to be just a little bit different and reaching just a little bit further, even if it is regressing towards something more familiar at times.This current
Thursday gig is just one example. A DUO with Marco Benevento on organ, the two people make more interesting music than most 3, 4, 5...pieces could hope for. The little-expectations, cheap-to-no-cover atmosphere of venues like the Tap Bar [unflattering aside about the Knitting Factory deleted] provide the perfect setting for exploratory visions of Russo and friend. I was plomb blown away as conversations ebb for 5-10 minutes of
unadulaterated audio bliss. This line-up features more song-like ventures and as is usually the case with Sir Joe, improvisation doesn't mean lack of cohesivity or direction. Quite the contrary. And in this stripped down, two-man show, the freedom means tightness and the constraints mean inhibition. Benevento is the perfect foil (as well as hot soprano sax player sittingin at points earl on). 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover > Just The Two of Us >50 Ways shows that good funk-based music isn't dead in the Soulive sewer, but being redefined and manipulated into refreshingly original building blocks. Rock and roll, dub electronica, jazz find their way into the stewthe way caramel swirls find their way into a pint of Ben and Jerry's.... maybe one of y'all can get them into your living room. You will not be disappointed. Check out good

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