Steven Bernstein: Sexotica and Millennial Territory Orchestra Volume 1

Tom Greenland By

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Sex Mob
Thirsty Ear

Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra
MTO Volume 1

Slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein knows what the people want: groove, bluesy soul, familiar tunes and humor - all in evidence on his two latest releases. Sexotica, Sex Mob's sixth release, continues a trajectory towards original compositions and mixing-room micromanagement. There's plenty of exotic electronica, thanks to Danny Blume and Chris Castagno, who create a far-Eastern, tiki-esque vibe via a percussive pastiche of splashy gongs, dripping-wet cymbals and effects unknown. Bernstein's pithy lines are harmonized or counterpointed by Briggan Krauss (alto and baritone saxophones), while Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums) keep the natives restless. Although the horns and rhythm section get a bit kicked in mix, tracks like "Kid Rock Deluxe and "7 Bars are musical matrimonies of man and machine.

The Millennial Territory Orchestra (MTO) is an outgrowth of Bernstein's immersion in the sound of the Midwestern swing bands for Robert Altman's movie Kansas City. Some cuts on the debut CD bridge the gap between traditional jazz and swing ("Boy in the Boat , "Pennies from Heaven , "Toby ), while others sound like slowed-down, two-beat New Orleans funk ("Darling Nikki , "Ripple , "Soul Serenade ). The group - Clark Gayton (trombone), Charlie Burnham (violin), Doug Wieselman (clarinet), Peter Apfelbaum (tenor), Erik Lawrence (baritone), Matthew Munisteri (guitar/banjo/vocal), Ben Allison (bass) and Ben Perowsky (drums) - is top-shelf, a collection of distinctive musical personalities within the general 'band-demonium'. These guys all speak the blues, but a cameo by former MTO guitarist/vocalist Doug Wamble takes it to the back of the alley with a Memphis-drenched cover of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered . Of note: Gayton's tailgatin' tales on "Boy in the Boat and "Toby , Burnham's wah-wahed and fuzz-boxed violin, Lawrence's rambling rumbles on "Cry Baby Cry , Weiselman's singing, signifyin' clarinet, Munisteri's fine rhythm playing and Bernstein's hard-hitting charts (with fine section writing on "Pennies & "Toby ).

MTO's CD release party at Tonic last month was a prime-time reprise of their long-running late-nite slot. Bernstein, ever the Lounge Lizard, commenced festivities with a drink order for the band, which had subs on drums (Gerald Cleaver), bass (Brad Jones), tenor (Michael Blake) and trombone (Noah Bless). Bernstein is refreshingly informal on the stand: following a sloppily rendered soli over "St. Louis Blues , he scat-sang the phrasing to the reeds, then let them have another go at it, all in (good) time; the open rehearsal continued as the band read down an arrangement of Ellington's "Braggin' in Brass : two run-throughs of the tricky stuff at half speed, followed by a full-length rendition at fighting tempo. Only the Dead's "Ripple was exhumed from the CD. The rest was a jambalaya of swing/trad jazz and Family Stone funk. This is jazz Americana at its rootsiest, King Bernstein holding court with a sanctified slide.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Pygmy Suite; Martin Denny; Exotique; Luvin' Blume; Quiet; Oakland; Dick Contino's Blues; Kid Rock Deluxe; 7 Bars.

Personnel: Steven Bernstein: slide trumpet, mellophones, vox; Briggan Krauss: alto & baritone saxophones; Tony Scherr: acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, vox; Kenny Wollesen: drums, percussion, bird whistles, vibraphones; Danny Blume & Christian Castagno: electronic wizardry.

MTO Volume 1

Tracks: 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 & soprano saxophones; Erik Lawrence: baritone & soprano saxophones; Matt Munisteri: guitar, banjo, vocal; Ben Allison: bass; Ben Perowsky: drums; Doug Wamble: guitar, vocal.


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