CLUB HELSINKI HUDSON
October 11, 2011
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Last Friday night at Club Helsinki, Steven Bernstein and his band, Sex Mob, demonstrated why they remain one of the most fun, wacky, enjoyable and outrageous party bands of the downtown avant-garde.
Joined for the occasion by occasional band adjuncts Roswell Rudd on trombone and John Medeski on keyboards, and with original drummer Ben Perowsky occupying his old seat in the absence of Kenny Wollesen, the band played a nonstop two-hour set of funky jazz covers of classic jazz tunes by the likes of Monk and Ellington mixed with James Bond movie themes, interspersed with contemporary pop and rock melodies and plenty of in-the-moment improvisations by this virtuosic crew, which included alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr, and of course Bernstein on slide trumpet (playing “little slide” to Rudd’s “big slide”).
Bernstein, as always, was a gracious and at times manic bandleader, establishing a great repartee with the audience on this most auspicious of evenings – the night itself was his wife’s birthday, and she was in the audience, prompting many musical and verbal dedications of love, as the couple has defied all sociocultural odds – especially for musicians, and been married well over two decades.
The evening was also a celebration of Bernstein’s birthday, which was to take place the following day and mark the half-century mark for the California-raised but quintessentially New York musican.
And to add gravitas to the proceedings, it was Erev Yom Kippur, simply put, the holiest night of the Jewish year, and one on which every single Jewish law was being broken by several of the bandmembers as well as any Jews in the audience or working that night, only adding to the renegade spirit of the music and the event. Bernstein made several verbal references to the night as his “Kol Nidre Concert,” although surprisingly for one who has recorded several albums of cantorial pieces transcribed for trumpet, he didn’t make any musical references to the Jewish liturgy (perhaps that would have been crossing the line or adding insult to injury).
In any case, Bernstein and crew were fabulous, with the addition of Rudd and Medeski lending additional colors and textures to the outfit’s blend of brass band, New Orleans funk, bebop, experimentalism, cartoon antics (musical and otherwise), all pulled off virtuosically while at the same time made incredibly accessible by the mere love and enjoyment of the music and dedication to that often ignored aspect called fun.