Take Five: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra Builds Community, While Kirk Lightsey Seeks Rapture Alone
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "High Light"
Trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein formed the Millennial Territory Orchestra some 20 years ago, originally with a repertory focus on the music of the 1920s and '30s. The aperture has widened considerably since; perhaps you recall the band's deft tribute to Sly and the Family Stone. Now comes a big swing: four albums dropping over the next year, under the banner of "Community Music." The first of these is Tinctures In Times (Community Music, Vol. 1), due out on Royal Potato Family this Friday.
Tinctures came out of a period of tough losses for Bernstein, and it features his first original music for the MTO. "High Light," which premieres at WBGO, is an actual highlight — for the intrigue of Matt Munisteri's West African-inspired guitar work, and the potency of Charlie Burnham's wah-wah violin. This music grooves on multiple levels.
Tinctures In Times (Community Music, Vol. 1) will be released on Friday.
Kirk Lightsey, "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum"
Solo piano is a consecrated calling for Kirk Lightsey, who made his name partly on the strength of a series of albums in that format more than 35 years ago. So it would be accurate in some sense to hail his exquisite new release — I Will Never Stop Loving You, arriving this Friday on Jojo Records — as a return to home truths. The album consists of songs he has favored in his set list, including the 1955 movie song that provided its title. Among this repertory are three pieces by Wayne Shorter — including "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum," from the album Speak No Evil. Lightsey takes the tune at a strolling tempo, unhurried but with purpose, and extemporizes with a master's flair. Among other things, don't miss how a quotation of Nat Adderley's "Work Song" leads back into the final turn of the melody, as if the giant is trudging back up the beanstalk.
Renee Rosnes, "The Golden Triangle"
Kinds of Love, the new album by pianist and composer Renee Rosnes, gets its title from the idea that love can manifest in myriad ways. One possible embodiment would be the feeling among a group of peers like the one Rosnes assembled here: saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Christian McBride, percussionist Rogério Boccato and drummer Carl Allen. They recorded the album fresh off the dry spell of lockdown. "The Golden Triangle," one of a handful of Rosnes originals on the album, assumes a head-bobbing gait and an astute harmonic language. It features superlative solos by the leader as well as Potter and McBride. And its title? That's a nod to The Village Vanguard, where Rosnes has had many a memorable evening — and hopefully will again soon, now that the club is scheduled to reopen in a couple of weeks.
Kinds of Love will be released on Friday on Smoke Sessions; preorder here.
Irreversible Entanglements, "Open the Gates"
Any new release by the experimental collective Irreversible Entanglements is worth sitting up straight for — and Open the Gates, which will arrive on Oct. 20 via International Anthem, is certainly no exception. Last week the band released the title track as a lead single, delivering a compact depth charge. As always, the power of the track derives equally from the spoken-word fire of Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) and the combustible cohesion of the horns and rhythm section. As Lars Gotrich wrote when he featured the title track on NPR's #NowPlaying: "Polyrhythmic percussion jogs at a brisk pace to Luke Stewart's whiplashed bass line as alto sax (Keir Neuringer) and trumpet (Aquiles Navarro) tangle around a regal, inciting melody that juxtaposes "Camptown Races" — a song steeped in minstrelsy — against Ayewa's liberation poetry."
Lyle Mays, "Eberhard"
Shortly before he died last year, keyboardist Lyle Mays recorded a 13-minute "mini symphony," as he put it, dedicated to the German bassist Eberhard Weber. Simply titled Eberhard, this piece was originally completed in 2009 for the Zeltsman Marimba Festival. The marimba and vibraphone player, Wade Culbreath, joins a distinguished cast that also includes saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer and percussionist Alex Acuña and guitarist Bill Frisell. On bass is Mays' longtime compatriot in the Pat Metheny Group, Steve Rodby — who also served as associate producer on the project, and who notes, in press materials, that this album was a culmination for Mays, but hardly a farewell. "This wasn’t meant to be Lyle’s last piece of music," Rodby says, "and if he had lived longer, he had plans for more." On its face, that's a heartbreaking notion. But settle in to the crisp grandeur of "Eberhard," and see if you don't feel fulfilled.
Eberhard is out now; see Lyle Mays' website for more information.