Marco in motion (circa 2008) – photo by Evan Dempsey

Brooklyn-based experimental jazz rock composer Marco Benevento and his Marco Benevento Trio recently ventured to Canada for its third appearance at Montreal’s Le Divan Orange since May of 2009. Between Montreal being the adopted home of regular collaborators, guitarist Brad Barr and Trio drummer Andrew Barr, and the area’s hipster culture occupying a clear fit for Benevento’s innovative style—the band has made the city a regular destination.

Set opener “You Must Be A Lion” off 2008’s Invisible Baby displayed Benevento’s clarity and distinct piano playing. While the vast variety of sound modifiers at the pianist’s disposal might place other artists at the risk of deteriorating the quality of performance, Benevento’s deliberately meticulous sound choices only contribute to distinguishing the band from a standard jazz trio.

“Call Home” was a chance for the Trio to display its masterful improvisation as the traditional opening stanzas segued into jam teases nodding to The Slip’s “If One of Us Should Fall.” With Brad Barr having opened the evening with a four-song set alongside upright bassist Miles Perkin, the recognition foreshadowed Barr’s later guest appearance.

An interpretation of My Morning Jacket’s folksy “Golden” demonstrated how the Benevento Trio is capable of adopting and transforming selections from other genres into its own unique style of playing.

Then, after testing the waters with a currently untitled track—amid the stage chatter one fan suggested naming the song “My Friend Chris”—Benevento satisfied the clearly anticipated collaboration by inviting Brad Barr for the second half of the show.

“The Real Morning Party” began with Benevento working his gadgets to create a high speed tap dance sounding intro, clicking and clacking before Brad Barr’s guitar began to acclimate into the mix. While it took a few minutes for Barr to find his comfort zone on this particular evening, he soon thrived with high pitched solos on “Greenpoint” and “Mephisto.”

Although he may not have opened his eyes until half way through the show, Reed Mathis—known for his role in Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and more recently Tea Leaf Green—displayed an overwhelming consistency, striking resounding bass notes to maintain a high energy level. The combination of Benevento hitting his stride into a chorus and Mathis aligning himself to the pianist’s chords produced epic and intense jazz riffs that make the Marco Benevento Trio an exciting and provoking musical experience.

Benevento concluded the set with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” While the audience may have been less familiar with this selection as compared to the concepts borrowed from My Morning Jacket, the cover was a strong show closer and displayed strong interplay between Brad Barr and Benevento.

As the audience applauded in hopes of an encore, Benevento obliged by paying homage to Montreal hero Leonard Cohen and offered a solo interpretation of “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.”