In Rotation: Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, “MTO Plays Sly”
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Now apparently living out of a van in the Crenshaw district, Sly Stone hasn’t been in the news for the best of reasons lately. But in a new collection led by slide-trumpeter Steven Bernstein, a brassily unconventional big band shifts the focus back to where Stone’s story is far less tragic: The music.
An eclectic sideman (that was Bernstein on trumpet during Radiohead’s set on “The Colbert Report”) and bandleader who fronted the party-in-a-bottle jazz ensemble Sex Mob, Stone’s psychedelic soul-funk is right in Bernstein’s wheelhouse. And he’s got help – in addition to New York City jazz hands that include an elastic rhythm section of Ben Allison and Ben Perowsky, the MTO enlists a range of guests. A quaveringly soulful Antony Hegarty turns “Family Affair” further inward alongside a bent wah-violin from Charlie Burnham, and Vernon Reid sprays his signature intergalactic guitar napalm under the bluesy ‘Time.’ Add in a few Sly-inspired improv interludes including a concrete-rippling translation of ‘Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Africa’ by Bill Laswell, and you’ve got a rowdily unpredictable set that might not bring Sly to a better place, but your ears certainly get there.
Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra
‘MTO Plays Sly’
(The Royal Potato Family)
-- Chris Barton