Steven Bernstein Millenial Territory Orchestra
April 29 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Navigating the intersections of countless musical forms in a way that is irreducibly his own, trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader Steven Bernstein approaches the age of 60 having fashioned a career unlike virtually anyone in the annals of music. A specialist on the rare slide trumpet, he continues to explore new concepts with Sexmob and the Millennial Territory Orchestra, two of the most inspired and longest-surviving groups of the new millennium.
Along the way, he’s also arranged music for films by Woody Allen and Robert Altman; had his compositions choreographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Twyla Tharp; arranged for project after inspired, out-of-left-field project hatched by the late, great Hal Willner, including an Apollo Theater encounter between U2 and the Sun Ra Arkestra; interpreted the cantorial music of Moshe Koussevitsky with tenor master and loft-jazz legend Sam Rivers (Diaspora Blues); took part in the career revival of The Band’s Levon Helm, an effort that led to three Grammy Awards; worked with Lou Reed on the rock legend’s final three albums; and collaborated closely with greats on the order of Roswell Rudd (Trombone for Lovers), Henry Butler (Viper’s Drag, by Butler/Bernstein & The Hot 9) and Bernie Worrell (MTO Plays Sly), to name just a few.
With support from the Shifting Foundation, Bernstein also spent four days in the studio with the Millennial Territory Orchestra, resulting in 26 new tracks. One day focused on Bernstein originals (a first for the MTO), while another was devoted to arrangements of songs ranging from the Grateful Dead to Eddie Harris to Charles Mingus. Another session featured vocal great Catherine Russell, and the last was with The Hot 9 — in essence a modified MTO lineup — documenting songs they’d never gotten to record with Henry Butler. Organist John Medeski and pianist Arturo O’Farrill also appear. This new and expansive batch of music will start to see release in the near future.
Bernstein also directs the Town Hall Ensemble, which was formed to mark the Manhattan concert venue’s 100th year. The ensemble’s mandate is to celebrate the culture and music of New York of the last 100 years, with a lineup that looks “like an New York City subway car,” Bernstein says, “people of all ages, races, sexes.” Rather than enlist Bernstein’s usual cohorts, the Town Hall Ensemble is “a gathering of the tribes, where every tribe sends a representative.” The result is a roster of players who wouldn’t necessarily find themselves playing together: Nels Cline, Pedrito Martinez, Marc Cary, Bria Skonberg, Lenny Pickett and more. In addition, Bernstein is an Artistic Director of the revitalized Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, a fount of exploratory music founded by Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman in 1971.
Moving to New York in 1979 and coming under the mentorship of lead trumpeter and ubiquitous session man Jimmie Maxwell of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Bernstein laid the groundwork for the omnifarious activities he pursues to this day. From his early work with John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, Ray Anderson, Kamikaze Ground Crew and Spanish Fly, to his appearances with Elvis Costello (Look Now), Laurie Anderson (Heart of a Dog), Antony & the Johnsons (Turning) and Nels Cline (Lovers), to his arrangements for the documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Bernstein has distinguished himself as both a renegade musical thinker and sought-after master of the trade, loved by players, producers and listeners alike.