Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Steven Bernstein is one of the hardest working men in show business. He composes, arranges, leads bands of feverish and crackling intent, and plays a heckuva lot of trumpet and the instrument's obscure cousin, the slide trumpet. Here is a survey of some of his career highlights.
Steven Bernstein is a trumpeter/slide trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, and composer who lives outside of musical convention. He has recently released three critically acclaimed CDs Diaspora Soul, Diaspora Blues (featuring the SamRivers trio), and his most recent, Diaspora Hollywood. All three are on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.
His band Sex Mob has been together since 1995 touring the world. Sex Mob has won numerous awards, and has had their music featured on MTV, Saturday Night Live and NPR. Their most recent CD, Sexotica, was nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Their previous recording, Dime Grind Palace (Ropeadope), features legendary trombonist Roswell Rudd.
His nine-piece ensemble, the Millennial Territory Orchestra, recently released their debut recording, MTO Vol. 1 on Sunnyside records. MTO was formed in 1999 for a series of Midnight shows at Tonic, and spent a year and a half long residency at the Jazz Standard. Bernstein also arranged and co-produced Baby Loves Jazz, featuring vocalists Sharon Jones and Babi Floyd, along with keyboard master John Medeski. The CD is available on Verve records.
Bernstein was the musical director for I’m Your Man, a documentary on Leonard Cohen that focuses on a tribute concert held at the Sydney Opera house, it was released by Lions Gate films in spring 2006.
He recently filmed an hour long segment for Solos, a Canadian Television program featuring solo performances by musicians including Andrew Hill, Joe Lovano, and John Scofield. Bernstein was also the subject of a feature entitled Creative Spaces on NPR’s All Things Considered, and was interviewed by Terry Gross in 2002.
Since November 2004 Bernstein has been a member of the Levon Helm band, playing at the Midnight Rambles in Levon’s home in Woodstock. Bernstein wrote the horn arrangements for Bill Frissel’s Grammy winning 2004 recording Unspeakable, as well as for artists including Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Darlene Love, Elton John, and Marvin Pontiac.
In 1992, musical iconoclast Hal Willner produced the debut CD by Spanish Fly, a cooperative trio with Bernstein, slide guitarist Dave Tronzo and tubaist Marcus Rojas, and they have been collaborating ever since.
Bernstein has musical directed many Hal Willner projects, including tributes to Leonard Cohen, Doc Pomus, and Harold Arlen, and created the music for Robert Altman’s film Kansas City. He was also the musical director for the touring version of the Kansas City band, which included David “Fathead” Newman, Don Byron, James Carter, Christian McBride, and Nicholas Payton.
During his 10 years as a member of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards he arranged the music for Get Shorty, Clay Pigeons, Fishing With John and many more film, television and commercial projects with Mr. Lurie.
For composer/Foetus mastermind Jim Thirwell, Bernstein arranged Steroid Maximus to be performed live by a 19 piece ensemble.
As a composer he has scored the documentaries Keep the River On Your Right, Balloonhat, and episodes for the Nickelodeon TV series “The Backyardigans”; as well as dance pieces for Alvin Ailey, Body Vox, the Donald Byrd Dance Company, the Flying Karamazov Brothers and the San Francisco Ballet, and numerous commercial jingles.
Bernstein has played trumpet with a diverse group of artists including Marianne Faithfull, Linda Ronstadt, David Murray, David Berger, Digable Planets, Sting, Medeski Martin and Wood, Courtney Love, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Don Byron and Mocean Worker. Awards include Downbeat critics poll 2006 (#1 RISING STAR ARRANGER, #4 RISING STAR TRUMPETER) Downbeat critics poll 2005 (#1 RISING STAR ARRANGER) Downbeat critics poll 2004 (#1 ARRANGER TDWR, #2 BIG BAND MILLENNIAL TERRITORY ORCHESTRA), Jazz Journalists Association 2003 (RARE BRASS) and Downbeat Critics Poll 2002 (SEX MOB #1 BEYOND GROUP, #1 ACOUSTIC JAZZ GROUP TDWR).