Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Benjamin

Posted on February 01, 2016 in Album Reviews, Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Bradford Spurr

Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and H. Jon Benjamin: one of these men is unlike the others, mostly because this individual has never influenced generations of jazz musicians and hasn’t won the whole world over. The man in question in, Jon Benjamin, whose main claim to fame is that fans will come up to him during his everyday life and yell “DANGER ZONE” or something about “phrasing”. Jon Benjamin is a distinctively noticeable voice actor, known for lending his talents to the womanizing and perpetually drunk secret agent Archer on the FX show of the same name, as well as the 40-something fry cook and father of three on the show Bob’s Burgers.

So when someone says that Benjamin made a jazz album, and that none other than Sub Pop Records has agreed to release it, you tend to pay attention. This is the same Seattle-based record label that discovered Nirvana, The Shins, Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes and others, the list goes on and on. Sub Pop is positioned firmly in the annals of indie rock history, so naturally you would assume that they knew what they were doing with this project that seemed more like a publicity stunt than artistic expression.

Jazz music as a whole seems very esoteric compared to Katy Perry and One Direction (RIP Zayn). At one time, jazz was the music of an entire cultural movement. Jazz was something that came from deep within the musician. Even if you know nothing about jazz music, you can still appreciate the talent and musical merit of the genre. This is not the case with Jon Benjamin’s Well, I should have…* (learned how to play piano).

The album, which clocks in at exactly thirty minutes, opens with a skit called “Deal With the Devil” where Benjamin calls the devil’s hotline in order to sell his soul and become a great jazz pianist. Kristen Schaal answers the phone and transfers Bejamin to the soul-selling division. Schaal is another Bob’s Burgers veteran, also known for her role in the TV series Portlandia. She is not the only celebrity featured on the track, which also includes Aziz Ansari as the voice of  the antagonistic Devil who tells Benjamin  that, “I don’t just buy any soul.”

The best song on the album, is “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3” where Benjamin engages in this hilarious call and response with a genuinely talented saxophone player. Over the single notes and key playing,you can hear Benjamin in the background yelling things like “take this!” and “you can play better than that!”

The whole album is reminiscent of what happens when a five year old plays their grandmother’s piano and thinks that they are as talented as Billy Joel. Except in this case, that child is just a forty-nine year old man from Worcester, Mass. Jon Benjamin, don’t quit your day job, you’re much funnier when you’re nowhere near an instrument.

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