Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Bernstein, Steven (Michael)
Bernstein, Steven (Michael), trumpet, slide trumpet, mellophone, band leader, arranger, composer, conductor; b. Washington DC, 8 October 1961. Moved to Chicago, Boston then Berkeley, Calif in 1969.His father, Ralph Bernstein (b. 1936) was raised on Bayonne, NJ and was a jazz fan from an early age. His mother (born Gail Glueck 1937) was raised in Shaker Heights, OH. His sister Alison (b. 1964) and brother Matthew (b. 1967) are both amateur musicians. Steven started trumpet in 4th grade (during a 1 year return to Boston) inspired by seeing Louis Armstrong on numerous TV shows.
Returning to Berkeley in 1972 (5th grade) entered Berkeley's legendary elementary school jazz program, run by Phil Hardymon and Dick Whittington, started by Herb Wong. Met Peter Apfelbaum at a school concert at the end of 5th grade, starting a musical relationship that continues to this day. Studied with jazz trumpeter Warren Gale at 12, summer of 1976 went to Bennington Jazz Lab run by Jimmy Owens and Chris White, and studied with Jimmy Owens, Ray Copeland and Kamau Adilifu(Charles Sullivan) as well as Larry Young, Beaver Harris, Charlie Persip, Ernie Wilkins et al. In the summer of 1977 he attended Creative Music Studio where he studied with Karl Berger, Leo Smith, Eddie Blackwell among others. During this period he was playing in groups led by Peter Apfelbaum, including the original Heiroglyphics ensemble, and playing in the Berkeley High School Jazz Band, which also produced many professional musicians during this period (Peter Apfelbaum, Bennie Green, Craig Handy, Josh Redman etc) In 1978 he started studying with legendary San Francisco trumpeter John Coppolla, who introduced him to the music of Rex Stewart and Cootie Williams, and continues studies with him to this day.
In 1979 Bernstein moved to New York, attending Columbia Univ for 2 years, then NYU for 2 years (graduating BS of music Cum Laude At NYU he started his studies with legendary New York trumpeter Jimmy Maxwell, who became his mentor in life and music. Maxwell had played alongside Cootie Williams nightly for 2 years (as well as most of the important musicians of the 20th century) and passed along techniques of vibrato, air and plunger. At this time Bernstein started his professional career in NY, recording his first album with Sahib Sarbib and meeting the members of the Lower East side scene, including John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, Phillip Johnston etc. Also, he started freelancing recording and Latin and Haitian bands, as well as many original groups around the downtown scene with Vernon Reid, Melvin Gibbs, Adam Rogers, etc. In 1982, he started touring with the Flying Karamazov Brothers and their band the Kamikaze Ground Crew.
In 1986 performed L'Histoire Du Solsat with Flying Karamazov Bros. at BAM.Played the Knitting Factory in1986, its earliest incarnation, and became a regular. In 1989, he formed Spanish Fly with Dave Tronzo and Marcus Rojas, in 1990 joined the Lounge Lizards, and started regular tours in Europe. In 1993 started working for John Lurie as arranger for TV and film. In 1993, he recorded the first Spanish Fly cd with Hal Willner, and started a long relationship with producer Willner. In 1995, he wrote and recorded a ballet for San Fransisco Ballet entitled "Fly By Night." In 1996 formed Sex Mob as a vehicle for the slide trumpet. In 1997, he led the Kansas City All Stars on a nationwide Verve artists tour alongside Joe Henderson and Charlie Haden.
In 1998, he recorded the first Sex Mob cd, and performed (and later recorded) the Harlem Nutcracker by Ellington/Strayhorn/Berger alongside Jerome Richardson, Britt Woodman, Art Baron and Marcus Belgrave. He also led a Tribute to King Curtis with Fathead Newman and Cornell Dupree. He did extensive US and Europe touring with Sex Mob. In 1999, he formed the 9 piece Millennial Territory Orchestra. In 2000 wrote a dance score for Donald Byrd/The Group performed by Sex Mob entitled "Ellington/In a Different Light" and the score to a revival of "Sex" by Mae West.
In 2002, he arranged "Steroid Maximus" by Jim Thirwell for 19 musicians, premiered at UCLA. Performed at Major Festivals in Europe and US as bandleader. Active as an arranger for movies, TV, commercials, and cds during this period, also as sideman/ arranger for Lou Reed, Courtney Love, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Don Byron, David Murray, Sting, Marrianne Faithful, Dr. John etc. Also performed and music directed many tribute concerts including the music of Miles Davis, George Harrison, Doc Pomus, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Married to Karen Close in 1992. His children are Rex (b. 1992) and Olive (b. 1994)
Spanish Fly: Rags To Britches (1994), Fly By Night (1996); Sex Mob: Din of Inequity (1998), Solid Sender (1999), Theatre + Dance (2000), Does Bond (2001), Grind Palace (2003); Diaspora Soul (1999); Diaspora Blues (2002); Nagl, Bernstein, Akchote, Jones: Big Four (2002)
Dave Berger: Harlem Nutcracker; Michael Blake: Kingdom of Champa; Don Byron: Bug Music; Digable Planets: Refutation; Get Shorty: Soundtrack; Kamikaze Ground Crew: The Scenic Route; Kansas City: Soundtrack; Lounge Lizards: Queen of All Ears; John Lurie: African Swim; Medeski Martin and Wood: Its A Jungle in Here; Mario Pavone: Mythos; Marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits; Lou Reed: The Raven; Lou Reed: Ecstasy; Paul Shapiro: Midnight Minyan; ShortCuts: Soundtrack; Steroid Maximus: Ectopia; Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (Soundtrack); John Zorn: Masada 10 year Tribute
Films as arranger/soloist/composer (selected):
Lounge Lizards Live in Berlin (1991); Faithfull (1993); ShortCuts (1994); Kansas City (1996); Get Shorty (1996); Manny and Lo (1997); Excess Baggage (1998); Clay Pigeons (1999); The Crew (2000); Keep the River on Your Right (2002)
Sex Mob music used on "Saturday Night Live" and MTV's "The Real World";
Sessions on 54th w/ Lounge Lizards; Live From the Knitting Factory w/Sex Mob, Millennial Territory Orchestra; Night Music w/David Sanborn, Carla Bley, Bootsy, Allen Toussaint; Great Performances from Lincoln Center (Comedy of Errors w/The Flying Karamazov Brothers); European TV with Sex Mob, Millennial Territory Orchestra, Spanish Fly, Lounge Lizards, Carla Bley, Karen Mantler; 2002 Super Bowl Pre Party w/Sting; MTV w/They Might Be Giants
Published articles: Louis Armstrong: Trumpeter, in Jazziz Louis Armstrong Centennial Issue
Feature articles on Steven Bernstein/Sex Mob in all major national and international jazz magazines.Concert and cd reviews in mags and newspapers including New York Times and Village Voice
Sex Mob caricature in September 2001 New Yorker
DownBeat 2002 Critics Poll - Best Beyond Group, Best Acoustic Jazz Group (Sex Mob)
New York Press 2000- Best Local Band (Sex Mob)
Wall Street Journal- Top Ten cds 1999- Diaspora Soul