© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

Marco Benevento: Reinventing Amy Winehouse

A 32-year-old New Jersey resident who's been playing piano since he was 7, Marco Benevento knows a thing or two about reinvention. His stage name came from adding the "o" to his birth name, Marc, as a boyhood homage to a soccer star. He performs on a 1927 Wurlitzer upright piano that has only 61 keys (red keys, in case you were wondering), designed for train cars and bars. That old piano is a big part of the appeal: Its tinny sound is run through a 1950s amplifier, adding layers of fuzz and grit, so it's as if you're listening to a very old recording of a very new song.

In this case, that new song is Amy Winehouse's retro-soul hit "You Know I'm No Good." Benevento strips it of its memorable trappings -- brassy voice, bold horns -- and gives it a jazz piano treatment. At the outset, Benevento keeps the listener waiting, pumping the piano with a vamp that says, "Something is going to happen... but not yet." Then, out of the blue, comes the familiar Winehouse-ian melody line.

Benevento's assertive interpretation features plenty of bluesy grace notes in his right-hand flights, an unexpected touch of dissonance in the chords, a big build-up aided by the pounding drummer and a surprise appearance by a scatting vocal chorus, as well as a churchy slowdown at the end full of tremolos, stutters and arpeggios. In his emotional, gospelized jazz, Benevento pays tribute to his musical inspirations: Horace Silver, James Booker and Ray Charles among them.

Meanwhile, you might wonder: Why remake Winehouse? "You Know I'm No Good" is the only cut Benevento didn't write on his new album Between the Needles and Nightfall. Like her many fans, he was attracted to her voice, and he especially loves this song. "It will stand the test of time," he said in a recent interview. "The melody, harmony and lyrics all work perfectly together to create a song that is easy to improvise over, dance to and play in any style -- tango, groove, swing, rock." His rollicking interpretation shows just what he means.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.