Friday, December 05, 2008

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra - We Are MTO (MOWO, 2008)

Trumpeter Steven Bernstein loves to bring different aspects of music together in the bands he leads, whether it is the mix of Jewish music and jazz in the series of albums he has led for Tzadik, or the unclassifiable genre bending of Sex Mob, Bernstein is like a fine chef adding ingredients and looking for a new flavor combination. MTO is a large ensemble that combines the swing history of Kansas City jazz from the 20's and 30's with modern jazz and dashes of R&B and pop music. "We Are MTO" opens the disc with a wheezy melody for the horns and violin, making for an interesting and unique sound. "In A Corner" and especially the inspired "Dickie's Dream" make the most direct connection to the hot jazz of the bygone era with some swinging old school strut. The Beatles "All You Need Is Love" is an interesting choice, but works well with an opening featuring fast violin and bass before the band breaks into the melody in a slow and almost narcotic fashion, slowly building up to a fast paced riffing conclusion. The only real weakness of the disc comes on the two vocal features, "Makes No Difference" and "Viper Song" which just come off as a little too cheeky and self reverential to really be effective. This criticisms aside, this is an effective album that thoughtfully integrates the joyous swing of early jazz with the energy of modern music.
We Are MTO -

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