Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – MTO Vol. 1 – Sunnyvale Communications

by | Dec 16, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – MTO Vol. 1 – Sunnyvale Communications  SSC 1158, 50:48 ****:

(Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar/banjo/vocals; Charlie Burnham, violin; Clark Gayton, trombone; Doug Wiselman, clarinet/tenor sax; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor & soprano sax; Eric Lawrence, baritone & soprano sax; Ben Allison, bass; Ben Perowsky, drums)

Trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein did the arrangements for the 1995 Robert Altman film Kansas City and fell in love with the music of the midwestern territory bands. He wanted take their special sound, with its roots at the beginning of jazz history, and re-imagine this lost treasure. These bands around Kansas City were known for their loose and bluesy performances, but their music has only survived on a few scratchy old 78s.

Bernstein wanted to play this music live again, and that happened at an improvisational music mecca in NYC in l999.  He assembled a nonet including such players as Ben Allison on bass and Peter Apfelbaum on saxes. The band has never had an official rehearsal – Bernstein shows them his arrangements before the show and they simply go for it onstage in front of the audiences. In his credits he thanks fellow arrangers Don Redman, Billy May and Sly Stone – giving some idea where he’s coming from. The only one of the nine tracks which really sounds like the original territory bands is Bennie Moten’s Toby, but that’s probably because most of the other tracks are original tunes by the Beatles, Prince, The Grateful Dead and Steve Wonder.  Great fun and a pleasing meld of the old and the new!

Tracklist: Boy in the Boat; Cray Baby Cry; Signed, Sealed, Delivered; Happy House Blues; Darkly Nikki; Pennies from Heaven; Ripple; Toby; Soul Serenade
 – John Henry
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