In 2011, legendary New Orleans pianist Henry Butler joined the Millennial Territory Orchestra, Dean Bowman, and Sandra St. Victor for a performance of the early blues at the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival. For this show, trumpeter/arranger Steven Bernstein created musical arrangements dating back to the 1890s and 1930s. Following the first performance,Bernstein went on to create new arrangements of Butler’s original work.They performed those pieces at their August 2012 presentation entitled “Early Blues” at Jazz Standard in New York City. With the success of their collaboration, Butler and Bernstein decided to expand on the project. Bringing in a New Orleans rhythm section with Herlin Riley on drums and Reginald Veal on acoustic bass, Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 was realized.
While Butler and Bernstein have an intense interest in the history of jazz music, they have no desire to recreate the past. Delving into the hidden roots of jazz instrumentalization, Bernstein focused on the details, including the addition of a violinist, based on early blues convention. Having recorded many of Butler’s improvisations, Bernstein transcribed what he calls “Henryisms” — layers of Butler’s piano improvisations performed by various members of the band. The result is an unhurried, organic yet musically deep, and irresistibly modern take on some New Orleans classics.
Using a traditional New Orleans palate as a launching point, Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 explore everything from pre-jazz to thoughtful, yet fearless, improvisations. In March of 2013, Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 recorded their first album with producer Joshua Feigenbaum (co-founder, NYNO Records with Allen Toussaint) at Avatar Studios in New York. Their upcoming album, due for release this summer, includes “Gimmie A Pigfoot (And A Bottle of Beer)” by Bessie Smith,“Viper’s Drag” by Fats Waller, and a new arrangement of Butler’s own “Dixie Walker.”
Steven Bernstein by Michael Weintraub
Steven Bernstein is a trumpeter/slide trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, and composer who lives outside of musical convention. He has released four critically acclaimed CDs including Diaspora Blues (featuring the Sam Rivers trio) and Diaspora Suite. Among other awards, Bernstein was voted the #1 Rising Star arranger on the Downbeat Critics Poll three years in a row. Bernstein’s group projects include Millenial Territory Orchestra, the Levon Helm band, and the Grammy nominated Sex Mob.
The Hot 9
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Doug Wieselman: clarinets
Peter Apfelbaum: tenor/soprano saxophone
Erik Lawrence: baritone/soprano saxophone
Charlie Burnham: violin
Matt Munisteri: guitar
Reginald Veal: bass
Herlin Riley: drums