Trumpeter Steven Bernstein returns to Minneapolis on Aug. 6, for a show at the Dakota with Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
Steven Bernstein, an accomplished trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader, was set to head off to Europe last week, for shows with the sensational New Orleans pianist Henry Butler and their group, the Hot 9. They were booked for the Nice Jazz Festival, in France; and on Sunday, they played the North Sea Jazz Festival, in the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Fortunately, before he flew to Europe, Bernstein took some time to talk with the AJW. The phone conversation, from his home in Nyack, N.Y., ranged over a variety of topics, including his Aug. 6 appearance with Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee, a rollicking brass band, at the Dakota Jazz Club.
Bernstein, 52, spent most of his youth in Berkeley, Calif., then moved to the Big Apple at the age of 17. He soon became a fixture in the downtown Manhattan music scene, performing with John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards; with saxophonist Paul Shapiro in a group called Foreign Legion; and with Sex Mob, which covers pop songs, including themes from James Bond movies, and is still performing and recording. (The latter group’s rhythm section, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen, played behind jazz guitarist Bill Frisell at the Dakota last week.)
Steven Bernstein: What’s not to love about a band with a tuba, trombone, trumpet and drummer? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Bernstein, who plays both trumpet and slide trumpet, also has recorded four albums featuring his idiosyncratic take on Jewish liturgical music for John Zorn’s Tzadik label. The first record in the “Diaspora” series was Diaspora Soul, released in 1999.
He is also the leader of the Millennial Territory Orchestra, a group of top-flight players, which performed in 2008 at the Walker Art Center. The first MTO album features covers of tunes by The Beatles, Prince (“Darling Nikki”), the Grateful Dead, etc. I really like the group’s album, MTO Plays Sly, which covers the songs of funk star Sly Stone, with the help of guest artists, including vocalists Sandra St. Victor, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Martha Wainwright and Shilpa Ray.
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