To get noticed in jazz piano, it seems, one must record a contemporary cover song. The Bad Plus have tackled Nirvana, Vijay Iyar has done credit to M.I.A., and on his 2009 album Between the Needles and Nightfall, the versatile Marco Benevento paid tribute to Amy Winehouse with a touching version of "You Know I'm No Good."
But to call Benevento a jazz pianist is limiting and against current trends of blocky, clustered piano phrasing. Instead of a clogged drain, Benevento is pure Liquid-Plumr, a quality assisted by his stature in the jam-band scene, having played with members of Phish, the Grateful Dead, RatDog, Further and Primus. He knows when to lay out and let the music breathe, just as he knows when to morph into a vertiginous version of "Bennie and the Jets."
Playing with four or five pedals, a laptop and a MIDI keyboard atop his upright piano, Benevento is more rock band than jazz trio, evidenced by the cast on his new album TigerFace, which includes Dave Dreiwitz from Ween, Mike Gordon from Phish and John McEntire from Tortoise. But the adventurousness of jazz is at the forefront of the ship, and Benevento is worthy of the captain's hat. Catch him on Friday, Sept. 14, at Terrapin Crossroads. 100 Yacht Club Drive, San Rafael. 7:30pm. $18. 415.524.2773.—Gabe Meline