Originally Published August 03, 2006
YouTube Video URL : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhS1LNCCO9I
Contributing Author – Benjamin J. Landsman
With Joe Russo on drums and Marco Benevento on keyboard, the duo based out of the suburbs of NYC have known each other for years. They lost touch after high school, parting their separate ways, until a chance reconnection evolved into a gig for $100 at a jazz club. Instead of one person making all the money, they decided to split the
profits. The response to the pairing was so well received, the former childhood friends decided to collaborate, touring the jazz circuit as the Benevento-Russo Duo.
The Duo traveled for a time and eventually Mike Gordon, former bassist of Phish, saw them playing. He liked what he heard so much, he wanted the boys to tour alongside him, honoring them by expanding the sound to a trio on certain set numbers. Having been fans of Phish when they both were younger, the Duo embraced the absolute dream come true opportunity. As if any up and coming artist wouldn’t be excited at the chance to share a stage with Gordon, the old school friends were then asked by both Gordon and Trey Anatasio, former lead guitarist of Phish, to open for a series of shows this summer of 2006. Their first performance was at this years Bonnaroo, sharing the stage in a top-billed, joint effort deemed “Super Jam”- a rocking set that found the four of them playing with the legendary Phil Lesh, Grateful Dead bassist.
Nicknamed G.R.A.B., an acronym composed of the first letters of their last names, the four members went on tour to both All Good and 10K Lakes music festivals. I was able to meet up with the tour at their stop in Cleveland, OH at the very beautiful, outdoor venue, Plain Dealer Pavilion.
The crowd was small but the music was great! The Duo played a first set
of original material and were amazing. They played for about an hour, pulling songs from their debut album Darts, and follow up album The Best Reason to Buy the Sun. Mixed throughout were songs from their latest studio release, Play Pause Stop. Though I could not get that set list, I must say they played a good variety of their material. I was not expecting them to have a set that would allow them to play as such, but that reflects Gordon and Anastasio’s respect for the guys. The former Phishians then meandered on stage, and joined them for the next set of covers, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Message in a Bottle by the Police, and some classic Beatles tunes. The crowd, a bunch of Phish fans, all wanted to hear classic Phish tunes, so the group finally broke into Wilson, a Phish favorite, and Trey’s Sunshine Song. Duo also recorded some tracks for Anastasio’s upcoming solo album due out this fall. If it is anything like the concert, the album will be some of his best work to date.
I sat down with Joe Russo to talk about GRAB, the touring experience, his admiration for Rufus Wainwright and some American Idol, gaining his perspective on former high school band mate, Constantine. The Duo are amazing jazz musicians and it was a true delight to interview the guys… even Marco for a brief, candid moment. So go forth and give these guys a listen because they are well-worth more attention.