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Community Music

by Steven Bernstein

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    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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      $4 USD  or more

     

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    All four albums from the Community Music series on vinyl, including 'Tinctures In Time,' 'Good Time Music,' 'Manifesto Of Henry-isms' and 'Popular Culture.'

    Each album will ship to arrive in advance of its individual release date:

    Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra
    Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1)
    ships to arrive by September 3, 2021

    Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra
    w/ special guest Catherine Russell
    Good Time Music (Community Music, Vol. 2)
    ships to arrive by January 7, 2022

    Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9
    w/ special guests John Medeski & Arturo O'Farrill
    Manifesto Of Henry-isms (Community Music, Vol. 3)
    ships to arrive by May 6, 2022

    Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra
    Popular Culture (Community Music, Vol. 4)
    ships to arrive by September 2, 2022

    Includes unlimited streaming of Community Music via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ... more
    ships out within 3 days
    Purchasable with gift card

      $80 USD or more 

     

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    "Good Time Music is a continuation of the music I was making with Levon Helm, with roots in Ray Charles, New Orleans, and the blues," Bernstein says, "but refracted through my own musical prism, the particular language of the MTO and Catherine Russell's magnificent voice."

    Bernstein and Russell met in 2008 when Russell did a show at one of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble's at his barn in Woodstock; later, she recorded her acclaimed album Sentimental Streak there, with Bernstein playing and arranging horns. Russell became a regular at the Ramble and cut the Harry Nilsson tune "Poli High" with Bernstein's band Sexmob the following year, followed by a few New York shows with the MTO. She became part of the community.

    The album's title comes from Lou Reed, who had just seen Helm's triumphant 2007 show at New York's Beacon Theatre. Bernstein was in the band and recalls that "the audience went crazy." Reed's summation was a bit more subdued: "Oh, you know," he told his friend Hal Willner, "it was good time music."

    "When Hal told me that story, I thought it was a put-down," says Bernstein. "But later I learned that Lou loved good time music — the kind where you just tap your foot and nod your head with a smile on your face — because he knew how important that is in the world. And with Levon, I learned how beautiful it was to play that kind of music. I thought it would be great to make a record of good time music. So here it is."

    Good Time Music draws on the feeling that Helm brought to the audiences at the Midnight Rambles, not to mention Bernstein's experience touring with Little Feat. And once again, there's that sense of music as healing. "Absolutely," Bernstein agrees. "It's always healing to play good time music — even if you haven't experienced loss. Playing good time music feels good: the band feels good, the audience feels good, everything feels good." Never mind that the words to most of these songs are kind of downers — "I don't hear lyrics!" Bernstein protests. Good time music, you see, is all about the tap, the nod and the smile.

    "Yes We Can" is the very embodiment of good time music, and in the MTO's hands, with Russell leading the charge, it builds and starts to cook — the kind of collective journey that something only experienced musicians can conjure. "That's capturing lightning in a bottle," Bernstein says. "And it takes a lot of trust to get there." And listen to Ben Perowsky's drumming there — the guy is on fire.

    Most of these tunes happen to be written by residents of New Orleans: Percy Mayfield ("River's Invitation"), Earl King ("Come On"), Allen Toussaint ("Yes We Can") and Professor Longhair ("Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand"). New Orleans music runs deep in Bernstein's bones: he's worked extensively not just with Henry Butler but with Allen Toussaint and Dr. John; he was originally taught trumpet in the style of Louis Armstrong, and, like Satchmo, he funnels his charisma and sense of humor into a stage presence that's as entertaining as it is commanding.

    Which is just one connection to Cat Russell: her father Luis Russell was Louis Armstrong's musical director in the '30s and early '40s; he also played with another New Orleans jazz originator, King Oliver. (Russell's mother Carline Ray, a Juilliard grad, was a hotshot session bassist, sang in choruses conducted by Leonard Bernstein and played with the famed International Sweethearts of Rhythm.)

    Russell sang backup with Steely Dan and David Bowie for years, as well as other blue chip artists such as Paul Simon, Madonna and Al Green before stepping out on her own as an acclaimed solo artist, recording seven albums and winning two Grammy nominations. Russell, a consummate professional, sang her vocals live with the band. "She's just the best," Bernstein says. "She's got a perfect mixture of science and intuition. She's an excellent musician: listen to her rhythm, every note she sings, it's perfect. There is no one else like her.”

    Includes unlimited streaming of Community Music via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    shipping out on or around December 26, 2021
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      $20 USD or more 

     

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Bernstein first saw the late, great New Orleans pianist Henry Butler play in 1984. "He was genius-level brilliant, man," he says, still marveling. "I couldn't believe there was a guy who could sound like the most ancient music and the most futuristic music at the same time." (Which is an apt description of Bernstein's music too.) Fourteen years later, Bernstein took Hal Willner's recommendation and hired Butler to play in the touring band that played the score for Robert Altman's film Kansas City. In 2013, the two musicians formed the Hot 9, the name a tip of the fedora to Louis Armstrong's landmark Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions of the 1920s. They released the acclaimed Viper's Drag album the following year, and toured until Butler's untimely passing in 2018.

    "Henry-isms" is Bernstein's term for the rhythmic and harmonic idiosyncracies in Butler's piano playing. For his inventive arrangements, Bernstein isolated those Henryisms and distributed them to different musicians in the Hot 9, so now Butler's style was emulated by an entire ten-piece band, effectively turning his piano into an orchestra. To hear Bernstein's Henryistic arrangements in action, listen to Butler's solo piano version of his James Booker tribute "Booker Time" (from 2002's Patchwork: A Tribute to James Booker) and then hear Bernstein's full-band version, and the way it demonstrates the lineage between Dixieland and funk.

    While Butler is no longer here to play the arrangements that Bernstein wrote for him, his spirit remains deep in this music. "I wanted to document these arrangements," Bernstein says, "while we still had Henry’s feeling in our bodies." But, without Butler's resounding musical presence, Bernstein urged the band to go its own way. "We know what he taught us," he says, "so let's take that and make it ours. We're carrying it forward."

    On A Manifesto of Henry-isms, Bernstein and the band carry on that Butleresque mix of ancient and futuristic, innovation with a reverence for tradition, embracing the virtuosity, ingeniousness and jaunty swing of early New Orleans jazz but incorporating all kinds of music that happened in the meantime. Pan-Latin jazz master Arturo O'Farrill's piano-playing is both visceral and brainy like Butler's was, but with his own unique sense of harmonic fearlessness, Afro-Latin rhythmic influences and NYC-bred bravado. And while bassist Brad Jones and drummer Donald Edwards impart an authentic Big Easy swing, John Medeski’s playful, percolating organ playing gives the Hot 9 a brand new flavor, and dig his thoroughly modern, electrifying piano solo over the primordial changes of King Oliver's 1923 "Dippermouth Blues.”

    When Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9 played the 2016 Newport Jazz festival, Butler "commissioned" Bernstein to write an arrangement of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," the Duke Ellington tune that set the stage for Paul Gonsalves' legendary 27-chorus tenor sax solo at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which almost singlehandedly revived Ellington's career. But here, it's O'Farrill who takes the epic solo — and all the ensemble parts the band plays during the solo are derived from sections of Gonsalves' tenor solo.

    You can also hear the modern touch in the Hot 9's take on "Bogalusa Strut": slowed from Sam Morgan's original 1927 prestissimo to a saucy vivace, the tune has a levitational free coda that was not part of the Butler-era arrangement. Then there are Bernstein's trademark newly composed introductions: in "Little Dipper," which is the introduction to King Oliver's "Dippermouth Blues," the melodies cycle around each other in a way that's more Henry Threadgill than Dixieland. You'll hear some Machito in "Indigo Aperitif," Bernstein's sprightly introduction to "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," and "X-Men" explodes the Bernstein-composed introduction to "Wolverine Blues" from Viper's Drag into a full-blown composition.

    If you're looking for the sound of community, look no further than on "Black Bottom Stomp": there's a 48-bar collective improvisation, and what could easily be a chaotic free-for-all becomes ten brilliant musicians having a funky conversation, listening, reacting and keeping it grooving in the uncanny way that only a true community can.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Community Music via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    shipping out on or around May 1, 2022
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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    "Where are you going to get original arrangements of the Grateful Dead, Eddie Harris, the Beatles, Bessie Smith, Ellington, and Charles Mingus, and not played as novelties but, like, this is our music?" Bernstein asks. Popular Culture, that’s where. It's what the MTO has done for brilliantly for 20 years: playing Bernstein's arrangements of the American Songbook, but reimagining that tradition in their own image. "I've always been into the idea of popular culture: what do we all connect with? What brings us together?" Bernstein adds. "Also, I just like the music."

    It's called Popular Culture and not Popular Music because these artists made music for the people, whether they moved a lot of units or not. Eddie Harris, whose playful, wide-ranging crossover musical spirit just might be something of a role model for Bernstein, wasn't often critically acclaimed but he was the first jazz artist to receive a gold record. The iconic Charles Mingus, on the other hand, never had a gold record but he recorded for major labels like Columbia and Atlantic, where he was labelmates with artists like Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin. Then there are deep cuts like the Grateful Dead's "Black Peter" and the Beatles' "Long, Long, Long": great songs that weren't hits but are still known and loved by millions because they're on best-selling albums.

    The MTO plays an elegant, reverential take on "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," a tune Charles Mingus wrote in 1974 as an elegy for one of the few human beings who awed him. Ellington awes Bernstein too: he made it a point to listen to Duke Ellington records every day for thirty years. Ellington appears again with "Flirtibird," from his score for Otto Preminger's great 1959 Anatomy of a Murder; that entire album is itself a key pillar of the MTO sound.

    Bernstein embraced the Beatles at a relatively advanced age: not until he was in his early 20s, when someone left a copy of the White Album at his loft after a party. "And I started listening to it and I thought, this is incredible!" he recalls. "It changed my life." He began writing an arrangement of "Long, Long, Long" in 2003 — and finished it on the plane from Italy to San Francisco to say goodbye to his mother.

    "I'm Gonna Leave You by Yourself" from Eddie Harris' overlooked and adventurously eclectic gem of a record called Silver Cycles (1968), was produced by Joel Dorn, who was Hal Willner's mentor, who was Bernstein's mentor. So it goes full circle. "Black Peter" is from the Grateful Dead's 1970 classic Workingman's Dead, a record that Bernstein never owned in his younger years, but then he didn't have to — in '70s Berkeley it was all around. But what does the MTO have in common with the Grateful Dead? A deep and abiding connection to American vernacular music, a point embodied by what Bernstein calls its "tri-coastal” arrangement: "It has a New Orleans feeling, the way I imagine a riverboat band may have sounded, then the New York City vibe because of the intensity and intent," he says. "And in the bridge you hear that West Coast psychedelic haze."

    Bernstein enjoys getting under the hood of these songs, reverse-engineering them, determining what's essential to the song and then thinking about what this particular group of musicians can do with it. So he'll zero in on that secondary melody in "Long, Long, Long" and turn it into an entire introduction. "It's like, look at that! Let's make something of it!" Bernstein says. "I always say, just try to get as much music in the music as possible. The more music, the better."

    Includes unlimited streaming of Community Music via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ... more
    shipping out on or around September 2, 2022
    Purchasable with gift card

      $20 USD

     

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Come On 05:05
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Flirtibird 02:53

about

The multiverse of NY-based go-to arranger Steven Bernstein is defined by his expansive musical vision and celebration of life. 'Community Music' brings this vision into sharp focus in a four album series of new music that stands on the shoulders of two of Bernstein's most enduring bands: Millennial Territory Orchestra and The Hot 9.

Community is at the essence of these recordings, made over four days in 2020 and featuring a nine piece ensemble of musicians, integral to the NYC creative music scene for the last 30 years, who have been a unit for 20 years, with many having known each other since high school or their early twenties.

credits

released May 7, 2021

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra
"Show Me Your Myth," "Come On" & "Flirtibird"

Steven Bernstein - Trumpet, Slide Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Curtis Fowlkes - Trombone
Charlie Burnham - Violin
Doug Wieselman - Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Peter Apfelbaum - Tenor Saxophone
Eric Lawrence - Baritone Saxophone
Matt Munisteri - Guitar, Banjo
Ben Allison - Bass
Ben Perowsky - Drums
Catherine Russell - Vocals on "Come On"

Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9
"Black Bottom Stomp"

Steven Bernstein - Trumpet, Slide Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Curtis Fowlkes - Trombone
Charlie Burnham - Violin
Doug Wieselman - Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Peter Apfelbaum - Tenor Saxophone
Eric Lawrence - Baritone Saxophone
Matt Munisteri - Guitar, Banjo
John Medeski - Organ
Brad Jones - Bass
Donald Edwards - Drums

COMMUNITY MUSIC
<-- 4 Album Series -->

Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1)

1. Planet B
2. Quart Of Relativity
3. Angels
4. Show Me Your Myth
5. High Light
6. The Gift
7. Satori Slapdown
8. Angels Too

Good Time Music (Community Music, Vol. 2)
featuring Catherine Russell

1.River’s Invitation
2. Yes We Can
3.You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon
4. Loveless Love
5. Come On
6. Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand

Manifesto Of Henry-isms (Community Music, Vol. 3)
featuring John Medeski & Arturo O'Farrill

1. Black Bottom Stomp
2. Booker Time
3. Bogalussa Strut
4. Josephine
5. Little Dipper/ DipperMouth Blues
6. X-Men
7. Newport Aperitif/Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue

Popular Culture (Community Music, Vol. 4)

1. I’m Gonna Leave You By Yourself
2. Black Peter
3. Flirtibird
4. Put It Right Here
5. Long, Long, Long
6. Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love

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Steven Bernstein New York, New York

An impactful presence on the New York scene over the past 30 years, trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader Steven Bernstein has immersed himself in such a wide array of music with his bands Sexmob, Millennial Territory Orchestra, Diaspora Soul, Universal Melody Brass Band, Spanish Fly, Blue Campfire and the Butler-Bernstein Hot 9 that he defies easy categorization. ... more

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