Biography: Steven Bernstein

Steven Bernstein is a trumpeter/slide trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, and composer who lives outside of musical convention. He has released four critically acclaimed CDs; Diaspora Soul, Diaspora Blues (featuring the Sam Rivers trio), Diaspora Hollywood, and Diaspora Suite. All four are on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.

His band Sexmob has been together since 1995 touring the world, winning numerous awards, and has had their music featured on MTV, Saturday Night Live and NPR. Sexotica, recorded for Thirsty Ear’s Blue series, was nominated for a Grammy in 2006. Their most recent CD, Sex Mob Plays Fellini was released in 2013.

His nine-piece ensemble, the Millennial Territory Orchestra, has released two CDs, MTO Vol 1 and We Are MTO. Their latest CD, MTO Plays Sly, features Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid, Antony, Martha Wainwright, Dean Bowman, Sandra St. Victor and Shilpa Ray. 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’s newest project is Butler/Bernstein & the Hot 9, a collaboration with the brilliant New Orleans pianist Henry Butler. Their debut recording, Viper Drag, was released in May 2014 on the new Impulse! record label.

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, released by Lions Gate films in spring 2006. He was the musical director for the live sequences in the 2009 Bill Withers documentary Still Bill. Other DVD releases include Solos, originally a Canadian Television program featuring solo performances by musicians including Andrew Hill, Joe Lovano, and John Scofield, as well as Lou Reed’s Berlin (directed by Julian Schnabel) and Levon Helm Ramble at The Ryman. Bernstein was also the subject of a feature entitled “Creative Spaces” on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and was interviewed by Terry Gross onNPR 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 horn arrangements for Levon Helm’s Grammy winning 2009 recording Electric Dirt and 2011’s Ramble at the Ryman, as well as Bill Frissel’s Grammy winning 2004 recording Unspeakable. Other arranging credits include Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Marianne Faithfull, Elton John, and Marvin Pontiac.

In 1992, musical iconoclast Hal Willner produced the eponymous 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 worked as musical director on many Hal Willner projects, including tributes to Leonard Cohen, Doc Pomus, Nino Rota, Shel Silverstein 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, Henry Butler, 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 21 piece ensemble.

Bernstein’s work as a composer includes the documentaries Keep the River On Your Right and Balloonhat, Nickelodeon’s hit TV show The Backyardigans (including an ANNIE nomination for his score to “International Super Spy”), live scores to silent Laurel & Hardy films, theatre scores for Mae West’s Sex and Trouble in Paradise, dance pieces for Alvin Ailey, Body Vox, the Donald Byrd Dance Company, the Flying Karamazov Brothers and the San Francisco Ballet, and commercial jingles.

Bernstein has played trumpet with a diverse group of artists including My Morning Jacket, 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, #2 Big Band – Millennial Territory Orchestra)
*JAZZ JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION 2003 (Rare Brass)
*DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL 2002 (Sex Mob #1 Beyond Group, #1 Acoustic Jazz Group)

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