via News Observer
by Craig D. Lindsey
Guitarist Eric Krasno and pianist Marco Benevento have a lot in common. They’re both alumni from the Berklee College of Music. (Krasno only attended one semester before transferring to Hampshire College, where he studied with jazz great Yusef Lateef.) They both have their own independent record labels. They both have associations with the Grateful Dead. (Krasno has been touring and performing with Dead bassist Phil Lesh, while Benevento is part of a tribute band called Joe Russo’s Almost Dead). In fact, they have so much in common, it’s surprising that they haven’t performed together more often.
But Krasno and Benevento are currently on tour together, making a stop in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday. During a joint phone call, where Krasno is speaking from a mountain in Mill Valley, Calif. (“There’s a hawk flying above me right now – it’s pretty amazing!”) while Benevento is in Brooklyn, they talk about what took them so long to join forces.
“It made sense,” says the Connecticut-born, Brooklyn-based Krasno, 40. “I’ve also known Marco for . . . almost 20 years or something? So, we’ve been friends a long time.” Krasno also recalls being at one of the first shows for The Benevento/Russo Duo, an indie-rock group formed by Benevento and Joe Russo, and eventually becoming a regular fan. “I used to kind of jump onstage and try to make it a trio every once in a while.”
Benevento and Krasno enjoy collaborating – not just with themselves, but with others. Both men are members of several bands. Along with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and The Benevento/Russo Duo, Benevento is also a member of the rock/funk/jazz quartet Garage A Trois; drummer Bobby Previte’s jazz/rock ensemble The Coalition of the Willing; and Bustle in Your Hedgerow, which reinterprets Led Zeppelin music. As for Krasno, he’s a founding member of the soul/funk groups Soulive and Lettuce (which was here, sans Krasno, last Friday).
And since they’ve been associated with artists in the jam-band genre (while Krasno has toured with Lesh, Benevento has toured with Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon), people have lumped them into that genre as well.
“I just think we ended up where we ended up,” says Krasno. “I think it’s gone beyond musical genre and it’s more just a style of, like, we go out and we tour and we work together and we kind of collaborate with a lot of different people. So, I think, musically, I wouldn’t say that we sound like a jam band. I don’t even know what a jam band is anymore?”
“I think ‘jam band’ can be kind of misleading to our individual projects,” adds the New Jersey-born, Woodstock-based Benevento, 39. “I think when people hear ‘jam band,’ they think of, like, long guitar solos and a night of two hours of music. Usually, the band will play five or six songs and really jam out every song. But we don’t do that. Like, I’m playing maybe 20 songs in a two-hour night, and there’s a lot of focus on songwriting, arranging and things like that versus jamming. It’s not to say I don’t like it at all. I do like it a lot. I like jamming and interacting and doing longer jams. But I agree with Kras – we just sort of wound up there because the people that like our music are also in jam bands and stuff.”
Nevertheless, both men continue to do their thing, performing together and promoting the solo albums they dropped earlier this year. (Benevento released “The Story of Fred Short” in April, while Krasno came with “Blood from a Stone” in July.) And although they say they don’t exactly fit into the jam-band mold, Benevento and Krasno assures audiences they’ll be jammin’ regardless.