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Steven Bernstein Diaspora Hollywood Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Sex Mob trumpeter Bernstein presentes the third in his Diaspora series for Tzadik...

Peter Marsh 2004

This is the third in trumpeter Steven Bernstein's Diaspora series, made for John Zorn's Tzadik label. For the uninitiated, Tzadik's mission statement is to present 'Radical Perspectives on Jewish Culture'; their discography includes tributes to Burt Bacharach,the complete works of Zorn's Masada quartet, plus a huge number of worthy (if occasionally dull) records that mix traditional Yiddish music with jazz and improv styles.

Though I've been a bit underwhelmed by recent Tzadik releases, Diaspora Hollywood is a gem and makes me wonder what I might have missed with the first two. Trumpeter Bernstein is a veteran of the Downtown New York scene, and is best known as leader of the (appallingly named) but consistently entertaining Sex Mob.

This quintet is completed by longtime associate and baritone saxophonist Pablo Caloger (whose arsenal includes bass clarinet and a multitude of flutes) bassist David Pilch, drummer Danny Frankel and the intriguingly named DJ Bonebrake on vibes. Together they take on traditional tunes, a couple of cantorials and three Bernstein originals (Steve, that is, not Leonard).

WhileOrnette Coleman provided the template for Masada's explorations of such source material,the inspirations here are more diverse.At first listen you might be forgiven for thinking that this is some obscure 60s Blue Note session rescued from Rudy Van Gelder's vaults.

Caloger's bass clarinet curls smoky lines around the spare shimmer of vibes and the warm purr of the rhythm section. Bernstein's trumpet is a graceful, authoritative presence and a surprisingly emotive one; check his poised,melancholic strokes on the closing "Havenu Shalom Alechum".

Bernstein's production places the band in a roomy, atmospheric acoustic; it's a perfect setting for these bluesy, impressionisticlamentations. It's hard not to picture Eric Dolphy and Bobby Hutcherson hanging rounda synagogue and copping some licks from the cantor as Bernstein and chums do their stuff. The quote from Henry Miller on the album sleeve sums it up - "The music got me too - that piercing lamentation of the Jews". Enough said.

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