Five Questions for Steven Bernstein

In our latest blog, Tom Welsh talks to the bandleader of Millennial Territory Orchestra . Millennial Territory Orchestra will be performing at 9:00 p.m. during Solstice. Q1: In your career as soloist, bandleader, and composer, you’re very much a contemporary musician – but the concept of your Millennial Territory Orchestra suggests the “territory bands” of early jazz. Where’d this idea come from? I worked on the film Kansas City with Robert Altman 19 years ago. Part of my job was to spend the three months before shooting listening to the "territory bands" from the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. When the filming was over, I kept on listening. At the end of 1999, I had a regular Friday night midnight show with Sex Mob at Tonic. When Bill Frisell hired my rhythm section, I had a gig, but no band. So I decided to form a territory-style band and see what would happen. Q2: You play the slide trumpet, an unusual instrument. How long have you played it – and where in the world did you find it? I found my first slide trumpet in the summer of 1977, at a music store in the woods outside of Woodstock. It was hanging on the wall and cost $25. The one I play was built for me by Dick Akright in 1993. Q3: You’ve collaborated with many of the great musical figures of our time, from Hal Willner, to Levon Helm to John Lurie and too many others to name. These always seem to be groundbreaking projects. Any favorites? There are no favorites, but last week I got to lead the Kansas City Band at the Apollo Theater with Bono, Bettye LaVette, David Johansen, Macy Gray and Paquito D’Rivera. We played a tribute to Levon with Glen Hansard and the Kansas City Band playing "The Shape I'm In" – and Quincy Jones was there! Pretty amazing night. And just a few days ago I wrote and recorded a horn arrangement for Coheed and Cambria, an insane (and very popular) band that is a 21st century combination of Prog, Metal, and Science Fiction....with an amazing singer. It’s always great to do something completely new and different. Q4: MTO is typically nine players, but for Solstice you’re bringing a singer? We are bringing an incredible singer, Dean Bowman, as well as Hammond B3 player Jamie Saft. Eleven musicians all together. We'll be focusing on the music from “MTO Plays Sly,” but will also play some of the "good old good ones" – a tip of the cap to your Youth & Beauty exhibition. Q5: Have you ever been to Cleveland? My mom grew up in Shaker Heights. My grandparents and my aunts all lived on Warrensville – my aunts were right next to May Company. My cousins lived in Pepper Pike, and I had cousins all over the place. Lots of time at Corky & Lenny's and Saul's Deli! Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra plays at Solstice on June 30 and at a family-friendly free concert accompanying the films of Laurel and Hardy on Sunday July 1 at 2pm.


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