Steve Bernstein's Sex Mob: Dime Grind Palace (2003)
Steven Bernstein and Sex Mob, still the perfect antidote to the sometimes overly cerebral jazz scene, are back with Dime Grind Palace. Not that the music is inconsequentialit features stellar playing from the Mob and their friendsbut it strives for emotional energy and a good time over chin-stroking. The Mob consists of slide-trumpet virtuoso Bernstein, saxophone torturer Briggan Krauss, upright bass thumper Tony Scherr, and alchemist drummer Kenny Wollesen. Unlike previous Mob discs, Dime Grind Palace features mostly original Bernstein tunes. Among the many guest performers, trombonist Roswell Rudd and multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum stand out, each contributing to most of the tunes.
The songs on Dime Grind Palace segue one into another, and coupled with the raw production, this creates the impression of a long jam session at a party with players sitting in and stepping out. The two improvisations, "Entrance Music" and "Exit Music," that bookend the disc contribute to this impression. "Kitchen" is one of two tracks played only by the Mob, and features punchy horn lines over a James Brownish, offbeat groove and a muted slide-trumpet solo enhanced to sound like a guitar. The unmistakable slide guitar of David Tronzo is heard on the title track and fits comfortably within its laid-back, greasy vibe.
Rudd goes to work on the two covers, "Blue and Sentimental" and "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand," the latter a feel-good rocker that his trombone dances over. Apfelbaum offers a spooky melodica part for the sci-fi track "Mothra," which offers an adamant rhythm, a unison horn part that pushes the musical tension, and wicked dive bombs from Krauss. Other highlights include Rudd's tune "Norbert's Weiner" with Doug Wieselman's clarinet and Scherr's plucked groove; and the trading horn figures of "Artie Shaw," the other Mob-only tune.
Dime Grind Palace is perfect for laughing off a tough week and starting the weekendit'll leave you smiling. Those who have seen the Mob live know that this is exactly the intent.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: Entrance Music; Kitchen; Dime Grind Palace; Translation 1; Blue and Sentimental; Mothra; Slide Serenade; Translation 4; Norbert's Weiner; Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand; Translation 2; Artie Shaw; Call to the Freaks; Translation 3; Conk Buster; Exit Music.
Personnel: Peter Apfelbaum: organ, tenor sax, melodica; Roswell Rudd: trombone; Scott Robinson: alto clarinet, slide saxophone: John Kruth: mandolin; Brian Mitchell : Wurlitzer; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Tony Scherr: bass; David Tronzo: slide guitar; Doug Wieselman: clarinet; Briggan Krauss: alto sax, baritone sax; Kenny Wollesen: drums; Steven Bernstein: mellophonium, slide trumpet.