Newport Jazz Fest Countdown: Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9

Remember how hip it sounded when Steven Bernstein gave Robert Altman’s vision a big dose of red blood on the Kansas City soundtrack? Everything about the film felt a bit more “real” because SB and the cats were in full rollick mode. Hearing modernists put their heart into Moten’s “Lafayette” and Henderson’s “Yeah Man” reminded us just how giddy and grand this music could be. Then came the Millennial Territory Orchestra – Bernstein unearthing forgotten jewels from the stompers that kept dancers in the Midwest and South jumping in the ‘30s and ‘40s. As the MTO’s swing boiled over, a kind of scholarship bubbles up, suggesting that repertory is a bit more pliable that some zealots believed. They gave everything a hot foot, which is also the game plan with Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9. In January, at the Winter Jazz Festival in New York, they turned the place upside down with red-zone renditions of N’awlins nuggets. Pianist Henry Butler is a NOLA native, and his virtuosic punch matches Bernstein’s visionary verve. Pieces like “Gimme A Pigfoot,” Dixie Walker” and “Some Iko,” all part of their Viper’s Drag (Impulse!), catch fire quickly. These guys are expert at animating every nook and cranny of a tune.

Newport Jazz Fest 

Henry plays solo

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