All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

263

Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra: MTO Volume 1

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
It's hard to believe that someone with Steven Bernstein's encyclopaedic musical knowledge has left any stones unturned. Recruited by filmmaker Robert Altman as a musical consultant for Kansas City, the veteran trumpeter from the downtown New York scene became fascinated with the music of the late teens and '20s, when the language of jazz was still being formed. So much so that he turned the experience into an ongoing musical project that echoes the music of bands that toured territories like the American Midwest over eighty years ago. MTO Volume 1 is the first release by Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, though the group has been playing regularly since 1999. It's a shame that it's taken so long to document the MTO, but it's been worth the wait.

While the instrumentation—horns, violin, guitar, bass and drums—mirrors groups from the era, this is hardly a retro shtick band. The MTO covers material from the time: the swinging "Boy in the Boat, the up-tempo "Happy Hour Blues and a perennial favorite, "Pennies from Heaven, sung by guitarist Matt Munisteri. But Bernstein also reinvents contemporary songs like Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Prince's "Darling Nikki, proving that the best songs are malleable, limited only by the arranger's imagination.

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered begins like a Delta blues; guest artist Doug Wamble's slide guitar meshes with Charlie Burnham's violin over a gentle pulse from bassist Ben Allison and drummer Ben Perowsky. The slow-burn vamp builds into a horn arrangement straight from the '20s, before Wamble enters with a soulful vocal that brings the song back to the present—and kicks some serious ass.

Remarkably, the MTO has never rehearsed, although by the time of this recording it was already an experienced unit. Bernstein's challenging arrangements are both detailed and open-ended, leaving plenty of room for powerful solos from every member of the band. "Ripple is another bluesy tune that features strong solos from Burnham and clarinettist Doug Wieselman. Clark Gayton's lithe trombone is the focus of the jump swing of "Toby, while the soulful "Cry Baby Cry is a feature for Eric Lawrence's gutsy baritone.

"Happy Hour Blues shifts gears more than a few times, but the piece feels of its time until it breaks down halfway into a fiery swing that serves as a foundation for Bernstein's best and freest solo on the disc. The MTO may use the music of nearly a century ago as its basis, but it's equally capable of looking forward. Regardless, MTO Volume 1 is just plain fun, from a group of players who are clearly having more fun than anyone should be entitled to.

Visit Steven Bernstein on the web.


Track Listing: Boy in the Boat; Cry Baby Cry; Signed, Sealed, Delivered; Happy Hour Blues; Darling Nikki; Pennies from Heaven; Ripple; Toby; Soul Serenade.

Personnel: Steven Bernstein: trumpet, slide trumpet; Clark Gayton: trombone; Charlie Burnham: violin; Doug Wieselman: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor and soprano saxophones; Erik Lawrence: baritone and soprano saxophone; Matthew Munisteri: guitar, banjo, vocal; Ben Allison: bass; Ben Perowsky: drums; Doug Wamble: guitar, vocal (3).

Title: MTO Volume 1 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Brass Bang!

Brass Bang!

Tuk Music
2015

buy
 

Plays Fellini

Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
2013

buy
 

MTO Plays Sly

Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
2013

buy
Sexmob Meets Medeski live in Willisau 2006

Sexmob Meets Medeski...

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2009

buy

Related Articles

Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Love Wins CD/LP/Track Review
Love Wins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 19, 2018
Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Mutt Slang CD/LP/Track Review
Mutt Slang
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Prisma CD/LP/Track Review
Prisma
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Jazz Tango CD/LP/Track Review
Jazz Tango
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "The Apple Of No" CD/LP/Track Review The Apple Of No
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 2, 2017
Read "What Brought You Here?" CD/LP/Track Review What Brought You Here?
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "Promise!" CD/LP/Track Review Promise!
by Don Phipps
Published: April 6, 2018
Read "A Meeting Of Spirits" CD/LP/Track Review A Meeting Of Spirits
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Indaco" CD/LP/Track Review Indaco
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: April 9, 2018
Read "Continuum" CD/LP/Track Review Continuum
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 10, 2018