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The Benevento Russo Duo

Cell phone cameras. MP3-playing sunglasses. Laser-pointing, voice-recording, de-ionizing salad spinners. Thanks a lot, technology -- now everything that does anything does something else too. The musical equivalent is of course the Benevento Russo Duo, the Brooklyn-based drums 'n' keys outfit that might be the Optimus Prime of genre-crushing hybrid bands. Using a battery of ivoried equipment from various eras and dimensions, Marco Benevento can weave a '66 Hammond groove into tomorrow's feedback-drenched drone, playing with himself as much as getting off master stickman Joe Russo. Russo is a disciple of Billy Martin of NYC trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood; he's ultimately relaxed but so tight in the pocket that the bulge is embarrassing. He plays with toys as well -- weird electro sequencers, samplers, and filters that alter and augment the Duo's sound to overwhelming, laugh-at-how-crazy-this-shit-is improv spazz jazz.

If there's any touchstone to these guys, it's MMW. Both groups take up the downtown mentality, spinning crisp instrumental hooks from heavy chops and buoying both with a fearless inventiveness. But the Duo is high-tech rockist to MMW's sultry jazzbo, distilled down a man, and as a result, perhaps more blunt-force potent. The Duo's songs are sonic events and then some -- melodies with brain-snagging hooks, aching and personal even minus lyrics. From electro funk grit to sloppy cock rock to classical grandeur, it seems there's nothing these guys can't do.

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Jonathan Zwickel

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