By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, November 16, 2012
When an instrumental act puts two vocal numbers on its new album and places both at the front of said album, it’s clear the act is aiming for a larger audience. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but on Marco Benevento’s “Tigerface,” those songs (“Limbs of a Pine,” “This Is How It Goes”) prove underwhelming. On the former, guest singer Kalmia Traver chirps cryptic lyrics to a sing-song ditty. Behind her a jazz rhythm section locks into a dance-rock groove while Benevento’s keyboards bubble like a lava lamp.
Things don’t improve much once Traver retires. For a keyboardist who studied with jazz greats such as Joanne Brackeen and who achieved jam-band stardom via collaborations with Phish, Benevento offers uninspired themes and unadventurous variations. Four tracks employ bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Andrew Barr; others feature Phish bassist Mike Gordon, former Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain and Antibalas saxophonist Stuart Bogie.
Nothing helps. The instrumental reprise of “This Is How It Goes” replaces the vocal with saccharine, synthesized strings. “Eagle Rock” dips into new-age territory with pretty piano arpeggios and background vocals without a lead vocal. “Soma,” with its windstorm sound effects and simplistic, repeating piano figure, proves as soporific as the namesake drug in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”