Likely you’re familiar with H. Jon Benjamin’s work as a voice actor in Archer or Bob’s Burgers – judging from the number of times I hear one of the two shows references in the daily office conversations, most people have at least a passing familiarity with is work by now. But did you know that he’s also a jazz pianist?
Well, kind of a terrible one. Or at least, that’s what he wants you to believe.
We begin with a narrated intro track, sound effects and all like this is some kind of radio play. Benjamin (here named Jon Benjamin – Jazz Daredevil) calls Hell to sell his soul for the skill to play jazz piano on an album he’s recording the next day. The Devil says no, forcing Benjamin to record the album with zero piano experience whatsoever. From there, hilarious musical disaster comes forth. (If you’re an avid entertainment consumer, you’ll recognize the voices for the receptionist and the Devil, but part of the fun is not knowing who’s involved, so keeping that under wraps.)
Benjamin’s jokes are subtle – the rest of the combo are masterful players, overlaid with the bare tinkling of a stripped down, unpracticed piano part that rarely follows the rhythm and often sounds as coordinated as a cat walking over keys while bounding after a dust mote. However, the improvised melodies never fall outside of the chord structures, and though no musician would ever call the piano lines good, the songs are still highly enjoyable.
The parody isn’t just in the music, either. The album cover looks like it came straight from the NPR jazz library, including an introspective pose in an outfit incongruous with the background, and a title that sounds wistful (“well, I should have…*”) until you read the small print (“… learned to play piano”). He also punctuates the tracks with the vocal punches of a band leader… if that band leader was Sterling Archer. And perhaps even more subtly, the label tags in the corner are Sub Pop Records (a real label) and Misophonic Sound, the latter of which doesn’t exist and is derived from the disorder misophonia, or “the hatred of sound.” I was almost fooled by this one – I’m not very familiar with all the jazz labels, and that logo looks spot on.
Fair warning, this album is HIGHLY NSFW, especially tracks 1 (“Deal with the Devil”) and 8 (“Amy’s Song [The Bum Steer]”), so I would advise either a pair of headphones or listening partners with the same sense of twisted humor that Benjamin caters to.
This album won’t win any Grammys, but it will make you laugh. Hard. Maybe spit out your coffee here and there. And maybe thank the Devil that, since he didn’t take Benjamin’s soul, we can look forward to more of his work in the future.
“well, I should have….*” is available for purchase on Amazon; and streaming on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/
Released by Sub Pop Records.