In 1999, Bernstein first brought together a group of New York's finest improvisers to play some of this music. Since then, he's been periodically soaking in it, so much so that on Volume 1, the first album by the Millennial Territory Orchestra, he can graft the sound and style of the territory bands, with their hotchachacha big lapel black bottom crawling style, to both original compositions and modern adaptations of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and Prince's "Darling Nikki" without batting an eye.
Volume 1 is a great party record, a serious slab of frivolous good time music, full of hot jazz, nasty soloing, and juke-joint funk replete with banjo and saxophone that somehow captures the atmosphere of a long gone era without sounding like a mere tribute. It helps that all nine players in the ensemble contribute exuberant solos as well as loose and crafty ensemble playing, strutting their stuff like a Dixieland band while coming together like a big swing group. From the light and carefree cover of "Pennies from Heaven" to the deconstructed crawl of "Darling Nikki," the band capture the vibe and sound of Kansas City 1933 while retaining the snap and polish of New York 2006.
Steve Bernstein's music might not be monuments for future generations of critics to fawn over, but that's really, really Okay. I haven't listened to either of Radiohead's past two albums, because I just don't have the patience for that much artsy-fartsy seriousness from what is basically rock and roll music, the same genre that gave us "Louie, Louie" and The Bloodhound Gang. Steve Bernstein and the Millennial Territory Orchestra throw a hell of a party; what else do you need?