If it seems Steven Bernstein has played in every ultra-hip band of the past couple of decades, it's because it's almost literally true, from the Lounge Lizards to Lou Reed, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, even Levon Helm's band. And that's besides his own iconoclastic outfits like Sex Mob and the nine-piece Millennial Territory Orchestra. The MTO was born out of Bernstein's work on Robert Altman's 1996 film Kansas City, when he sorted through the work of a profusion of 1920s and '30s (pre-big band) barnstorming groups in search of an authentic feel. Bernstein, who plays trumpet and the way-peculiar slide trumpet, got to thinking how he could use the era's orchestration devices to revive an essentially long-lost sound and then—almost perversely if it wasn't so brilliant—apply them to contemporary tunes. The result, captured on 2006's MTO Volume 1 (Sunnyside), is a kind of generational/cultural rapprochement: McKinney's Cotton Pickers meet the Beatles on "Cry Baby Cry," Count Basie teams up with Prince on "Darling Nikki," Bennie Moten meets the Grateful Dead on "Ripple." The arrangements are so intuitively right and played with such zest that it's far from gimmicky, but will make your head spin delightedly all the same.
Sat., Dec. 1, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2007