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MTO, Vol. 1

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Audio CD, August 1, 2006
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 1, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: 2006
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sunny Side Records
  • ASIN: B000GEU6N6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,819 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Boy In The Boat
2. Cry Baby Cry
3. Signed, Sealed, Delivered
4. Happy Hour Blues
5. Darling Nikki
6. Pennies From Heaven
7. Ripple
8. Toby
9. Soul Serenade

Editorial Reviews

Product Description


Steve Bernstein's informative liner notes give a bit of background for his latest recording and the funny name for his band. Sounding like a territory band from the 30's, but playing a mix of standards and rock and R&B hits, the trumpeter/arranger has been leading this kind of configuration for about seven years now. On MTO Volume 1, the band injects soul into every note and has created a wonderful record.

"The Boy in the Boat" harkens back to late-1920's Okeh-era Ellington, but with touches of revivalist jump bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Matt Munisteri's Freddie Green-style comping helps give it this feel. The main solo feature is lengthy and belongs to Gayton, who uses the sp-ace to construct some lyrical lines. One of the stars of this CD is Charlie Burnham, whose syrup-toned violin brings this song to a close.

The Beatles' "Cry Baby Cry" is given a heavier feel that lays on a groovy backbeat held down by Perowsky. The tenor saxophone sounds bluesy with Wieselman's clarinet and Gayton's trombone providing subtle support. We then arrive at tempo and Lawrence performs the melody, as though he wrote it, on baritone sax. Adding to the cool feel is Perowsky's rock/pop drums, and Munisteri's electric guitar, with just a hint of distortion. The song is arranged as if for a vocalist. Suddenly the bartone bursts into solo mode with Perowsky holding down the groove and Munisteri's fine R&B comping.

Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" is performed as a very slow 12/8 blues, with string bass intro and Wamble's slide guitar wailing on top. Burnham eventually joins in the bluesy conversation. Wamble is also the singer here, and his emotive voice is perfect. You've never heard the song done like this. As the verses end, Doug takes another acoustic slide solo, but after the vocals have ended with such high energy, it all comes back down to a whisper for the start of the solo, which feels a little weird. Soon, the horn ensemble arrives to back him up and the energy grows again. The ending is conducted, as the band pumps their hearts into the final fermatas.

"Happy Hour Blues" takes us back to the 20's/30's swing/Dixie feel again, this time complete with banjo and clarinet. This is contrasted immediately with lightening-fast bebop. And so the perfomance goes: right back to swing for the verse, the bridge is fast bop. We hear a great stop-time trombone solo, that segues into fast bop for Bernstein's atonal trumpet solo.

Prince's sex-filled fantasy, "Darling Nikki," starts with pizzicato violin, bass, and twangy guitar. Clarinet creeps in for this intro full of erotic mystery, and gradually the song takes shape. The melody comes along after four minutes, rendered by Steve's slide trumpet, which he reprises with plunger mute. Burnham takes hold of the melody on the way out on his wah-wah effected violin, which is buttressed by overdriven guitar. Perowsky's machine gun drum solo rocks out for the final minute. This rendition though instrumental, gets just as nasty as the original!

Munisteri starts off "Pennies from Heaven" with swing-style solo guitar. The rhythm section then turns it into a trio. and the horns join in later. Matt has his turn at the mic later on, and his voice comes off like that of John Pizzarelli, with maybe a bit more bite.

"Ripple" is in a lazy 3/4, honking horns and sweet violin setting up this bluesy cut. There is no guitar, bass or drums for the first two minutes, leaving Burnham and the guys cool and swinging. The rhythm section joins in later and this greasy, gritty number becomes even more so. The tempo drags its way down to glacial slowness, with the clarinet wailing away on the ending.

I really enjoyed listening to this CD, and it must be a blast to see the MTO live.

- Joe Knipes - excerpt --Jazz Improv - Spring 2007

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Krista LaNue on August 4, 2006
Format: Audio CD
A must-have for jazz lovers! Slide trumpeter and jazz bandleader Steven Bernstein's music is characterized by energy, exuberance, and passion. In "Darling Nikki," the melody starts quietly, with captivating plucks of the violin, then builds into a jazz explosion of horn harmonies and pounding drums. "Pennies from Heaven," "Cry Baby Cry," and "Happy Hour Blues" stretches music in new directions, taking the listener to new heights of pleasure.

This is one album I can listen to over and over again!!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Lamperetta on January 27, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Steve Bernstein's inspiration for the MTO came about in 1995, when he was hired as a consultant for Robert Altman's film 'Kansas City.' In order to assure the authenticity of the music in the jazz-based film, the trumpeter immersed himself in hour-after-hour of listening to old 78 RPM recordings from the late '20s and early '30s and it was this process that inspired him to, as he puts it, 'bring this music back to life.'

Formed in 1999, the MTO has never had a formal rehearsal. Instead, as the nine-piece outfit has gigged regularly, they learn tunes and hone their modern-retro-vibe onstage in front of audiences that run the gamut from 20-something hipsters to grandmas who have a different appreciation for what was once the popular music of its day.

Featuring bass, drums, violin, trombone, trumpet, guitar/banjo, and a trio of reeds that encompasses clarinet, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones, the group's recording debut, 'MTO Volume 1' on Sunnyside was recorded live in the studio.

Juxtaposing tunes from yesteryear with decidedly more modern fare, it becomes clear from the opening swing of the old-time tune 'Boy in the Boat' that this is a debut that is long overdue.

'Toby' is another blast from the past that also swings mightily while contemporary tunes like Prince's 'Darling Nikki' and Stevie Wonder's 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered' (which features an outstanding guest appearance by Doug Wamble on guitar and vocals), both benefit greatly from being filtered through Bernstein's backward looking glass.
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10 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jan P. Dennis on September 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
. . . and an often rather annoying one, at that.

A little perspective. In the 20's and 30's, there were jazz bands limited to various parts of the country called "territory bands." Often quite good, though not generally rivaling the best of the big bands, they played around Kansas City and other parts of the Midwest. I'm sure they served an important cultural/musical function during the early years of jazz, helping to spread the jazz message to the hinterlands, developing local talent that later made places like KC (hometown of Charlie Parker) among the most influential jazz centers in America, and providing homegrown, cheap entertainment for depression-era persons starved for distractions from their severe economic hardships.

When Steven Bernstein, leader and trumpet/slide trumpet player, got a call from Robert Altman to listen to music for an upcoming film, Hal Wilner sent him old 78 recordings of these territory bands copied onto cassettes. Bernstein became fascinated not only by the sounds of these early bands, but also by the implied cultural landscape within which they operated.

He decided he would like to try his hand at recreating it. Thus he assembled a group of topnotch downtown NY players--people like Ben Allison (bass), Ben Perowsky (drums), Clark Gayton (trombone), and Doug Wieselman (clarinet, tenor sax), among others--and landed a regular gig first at Tonic and then at the Jazz Standard. Apparently, people responded well to the live shows--crying teen-age girls, smiling grandmothers (according to the liner notes)--and, voila!--this recording was born.

I'm sure this music makes wonderful live listening.
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