- Michael Shields
This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with musician trumpeter, slide trumpeter, arranger/composer and bandleader from New York City, Steven Bernstein. Steven is best known for his work in The Lounge Lizards, Sex Mob, Spanish Fly, and the Millennial Territory Orchestra. He has released four albums under his own name on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records and he has performed with jazz giants including Roswell Rudd, Sam Rivers, Don Byron, and Medeski, Martin & Wood, as well as musicians ranging from Aretha Franklin to Lou Reed, from Linda Ronstadt to Digable Planets, from Sting to Courtney Love. Steven was a member of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble band, playing in Helm’s Woodstock home, as well as touring with the band. As an arranger he has written for Bill Frisell, Rufus Wainwright, and Elton John, just to name a few. He has composed for dance, theater, film and television, and with composer John Lurie, arranged the scores to many feature films, including Get Shorty. While Steven is prolific with his output, this episode centers on two of his projects, Sex Mob, which just released a terrific new album called The Hard Way, and The Millennial Territory Orchestra, which recently released four excellent records, in one day, on the Royal Potato Family label. Sex Mob’s latest release is a bit of a departure for the band, as with producer Scotty Hard at the board, The Hard Way skews decisively electronic. On it, Hard’s beats and soundscapes provide Steven, saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr and acoustic/electric drummer Kenny Wollesen, all the stimulus they need for further compose and fearlessly reinvent. With each offering, and certainly with The Hard Way and its rich electro-acoustic groove canvas, Steven and crew reveal a modernizing impulse, but also an equally strong foundation in the roots of jazz and American song. Funky, bluesy, with a tattered dissonance conjured up by Krauss Throaty saxophone tone, the distinctive wail of Steven’s rare horn, and the swagger of Scherr and Wollesen’s rhythm section grind, Sex Mob continues to chart new paths in 21st-century creative music. In this episode host Michael Shields and Steven Bernstein talk about Sex Mob’s new direction sonically found on The Hard Way while exploring the production process behind this captivating work of art. They converse on producer Scott Hard’s influence on the album, the unique art house label that The Hard Way was released on called Corbett vs. Dempsey, and the four albums Steven recently released with The Millennial Territory Orchestra. They even discuss Sex Mob’s forthcoming tour with Laurie Anderson, the many “gifts” Steven received in his career from renowned producer Hal Willner, and so much more.
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