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Steven Bernstein

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. A former member of the Lounge Lizards and Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band, Bernstein has also composed works for film, theater and dance in addition to doing arrangements for a diverse list of artists ranging from Lou Reed to Lee “Scratch” Perry, Allen Toussaint, Marianne Faithfull, Linda Ronstadt, Rufus Wainwright, Darlene Love, Mario Pavone, Bill Frisell, John Lurie and the Kansas City All-Stars. His lengthy list of sideman credits includes recent recordings by Laurie Anderson (Heart of a Dog), Roswell Rudd (Trombone for Lovers), Mostly Other People Do The Killing (Loafer’s Hollow), Antony and the Johnsons (Turning) and Nels Cline (Lovers). He also continues to perform with Ray Anderson’s Pocket Brass Band, Omaha Diner and the Kamikaze Ground Crew.

Born on October 8, 1961 in Berkeley, California, Bernstein was hugely influenced by his Berkeley School band director, Phil Hardymon, who instilled in his students a sense of disciplined ensemble playing in the Count Basie tradition. In 6th grade, Bernstein formed what would become a lifelong friendship and musical partnership with saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, later the leader of the Hieroglyphics Ensemble.  The two would attend performances in the Bay Area by Eddie Harris, Sam Rivers, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk and Woody Shaw at the Keystone Korner and a series of solo concerts by Leo Smith, Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake and Baikida Carroll as well as one eye-opening gig by the Art Ensemble of Chicago at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. Bernstein studied in Berkeley with former Woody Herman and Stan Kenton trumpeter John Coppola and after moving to New York in 1978 was mentored by lead trumpeter and ubiquitous session man Jimmie Maxwell, who had replaced Harry James in the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the early 1940s.

Bernstein joined John Lurie’s outfit the Lounge Lizards in 1990, appearing on the group’s 1991 release Live in Berlin on the Intuition label. Shortly before that, in 1988 he had formed the daring Spanish Fly trio with slide guitarist Dave Tronzo and tuba virtuoso Marcus Rojas. They began performing at the Knitting Factory and subsequently released 1994’s Rags to Britches on Knitting Factory Works and 1996’s Fly By Night on Accurate Records. By 1995, producer Hal Willner, a fan of Spanish Fly, enlisted Bernstein as arranger for the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s film Kansas City, which led to collaborations on other Willner projects, including arranging for Jazz Foundation of America benefit concerts (featuring singers Lou Reed, Bono, Darlene Love, Macy Gray, Elvis Costello and Dr. John) at the Apollo Theatre, tributes to Bill Withers, Doc Pomus and Leonard Cohen at Celebrate Brooklyn and arranging work on the soundtrack for the 2005 documentary film, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.

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Album Review

Ray Anderson Pocket Brass Band: Come In

Read "Come In" reviewed by Vic Albani

Con tutto il rispetto per il quartetto di musicisti titolare di questa incisione, questo disco potrebbe essere velocemente destinato alla casella “bello anche se non fondamentale." Ma c'è una storia da raccontare che forse rende giustizia alla “necessità" di volerlo pubblicare e dargli un valore comunque non indifferente. L'11 marzo 2020 è una data certamente particolare. I telefoni di Ray Anderson, Steven Bernstein, Jose Davila e Tommy Campbell (arrivati da poco a Cottbus, borgata ad un tiro di ...

Album Review

Michael Blake: Combobulate

Read "Combobulate" reviewed by Chris May

The instrumentation alone promises something out of the ordinary. Saxophone, two tubas, trumpet, trombone, drums. Then there are the musicians, luminaries of downtown New York jazz. Michael Blake, Bob Stewart, Marcus Rojas, Steven Bernstein, Clark Gayton, Allan Mednard. And within seconds of the needle descending on track one, side one, Combobulate starts delivering on the promise. The album is one of four marking the return of audiophile-vinyl label Newvelle after a two-year hiatus. The approximate meaning of its ...

Radio & Podcasts

Ron Miles & Steven Bernstein

Read "Ron Miles & Steven Bernstein" reviewed by Joe Dimino

From the very talented jazz veteran Steven Bernstein with his Millenial Territory Orchestra, we start the 744th Episode of Neon Jazz. From there, we hear his hero in Duke Ellington. We listen to new music from jazz veterans like Michael Weiss, Farzin Farhadi, Eric Person and Bernie Senensky. Finally, we salute the late-great Ron Miles who we unexpectedly recently lost at the age of 58. Enjoy the jazz, my friends.Playlist Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra “Planet B" Tinctures ...

Radio & Podcasts

Steven Bernstein, Michael Brecker and the Art of Jazz-Hacking the Pop world - Part 1

Read "Steven Bernstein, Michael Brecker and the Art of Jazz-Hacking the Pop world - Part 1" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu

This week we focus on Steven Bernstein and Michael Brecker, the quintessential jazz-hackers of the pop world. If you heard a compelling saxophone solo on a high-end pop or rock production, especially between the 1970s and 1990s, you could bet it was by Michael Brecker, who over the years has appeared on almost 1000 albums. Likewise, if you have been struck by an elegant yet quirky arrangement on a high-end pop or rock album from the past two ...

Radio & Podcasts

Avant-Retro or Retro-Avant? Part I

Read "Avant-Retro or Retro-Avant? Part I" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu

Rigid categories are not what music should be about. This week we focus on music that some may file under “retro" but is performed by musicians that are often labelled “avant," it may not sound exactly how Count Basie and the Kansas City 7 or Fess Williams and the Royal Flush Orchestra would have played, but hey... it's 2020 and it debunks the notion that musicians that may like it skronky don't know how to swing. Case in point: Steven ...

Radio & Podcasts

Steven Bernstein, Peter Apfelbaum and Will Bernard: From the East Bay to the Avant Garde

Read "Steven Bernstein, Peter Apfelbaum and Will Bernard: From the East Bay to the Avant Garde" reviewed by Leo Sidran

Steven Bernstein, Peter Apfelbaum and Will Bernard on looking forward, looking back, the musical concept of opposition, defying category, broken mirrors, free improvisation, why coffee is so expensive and music is so cheap, the musical conversation between Berkeley and New York, spontaneous composition, rock and roll, Jewish weddings, Sly Stone, Bill Laswell, Trey Anastasio, and why “sex" is still a dirty word in jazz. This podcast interview was recorded live at Winter JazzFest 2020. ...

Album Review

Steven Bernstein, Paolo Fresu, Gianluca Petrella, Marcus Rojas: Brass Bang!

Read "Brass Bang!" reviewed by Vincenzo Roggero

All'inizio c'è la voce di Steve Bernstein che su un sottofondo di fanfara snocciola una sequenza di frasi in italiano maccheronico, da turista fai da te, poi irrompe Duke Ellington, la sua “Black and Tan Fantasy" ha pienezza orchestrale, colori vividi e sorprendente delicatezza. Anche i Rolling Stones? Così parrebbe perché l'inconfondibile melodia di “As Tears Go By" si svela solo dopo quasi sei minuti di sonorità misteriose, siderali, richiami dallo spazio o dalle profondità marine che improvvisamente si assemblano ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Come In

Double Moon Records



Newvelle Records


See My Baby

Self Produced


Brass Bang!

Tuk Music


MTO Plays Sly

PizzaExpress Jazz Club Soho


Plays Fellini

PizzaExpress Jazz Club Soho


See My Baby

From: See My Baby
By Steven Bernstein



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