‘Good Time Songs: (Group Songs, Vol. 2)’ by Steven Bernstein Review: Many Shades of Blues

Yoshiko Yap

Most of us had been led to believe that the blues is a incredibly specific thing—that it is meant to be all about a man standing in a barnyard, wailing absent on an out-of-tune guitar about how some female, or even the whole earth, has completed him mistaken. More than the decades, we’ve uncovered that the blues is a lot more substantial than that. “Good Time New music: (Group Songs, Vol. 2),” the new album by trumpeter, bandleader and composer

Steven Bernstein,

out Friday on Royal Potato Relatives, serves as a vivid illustration of how inclusive the impulse of the blues seriously is—how it transcends time (the two musical and chronological) and interacts with other genres of audio, often in shocking means.

“Good Time Music” is the 2nd of four albums that Mr. Bernstein recorded with his ensemble, the Millennial Territory Orchestra, in excess of 4 days in January 2020, and which he is releasing above a 12-month interval in 2021 and 2022. The group’s name refers to the tradition of touring jazz bands that proliferated typically in the South and Midwest in the 1930s. (Famously, the young

Invoice Basie

apprenticed in the Oklahoma City Blue Devils extensive ahead of he turned the Rely and led his possess band.)

The initially album in the sequence, “Tinctures In Time” (unveiled in September), concentrated on Mr. Bernstein’s original compositions. “Good Time Music” features six perfectly-identified quantities, all with a visceral link to the blues. On just about every monitor it spotlights the stellar singing of

Catherine Russell,

my private selection as the best of all modern day blues singers (and a winner of jazz and pop requirements as perfectly).

Catherine Russell


Sandrine Lee

The fifty percent-dozen tunes array, chronologically, from “Careless Enjoy,” a traditional song (later on adapted by

W.C. Handy

into the preferred “Loveless Love”), to

Allen Toussaint’s

“Yes We Can,” which

Lee Dorsey

introduced in 1970. Even nevertheless all the numbers are acceptable for dancing (the blues is, extra than just about anything, dance tunes), they cover a large selection of attitudes towards life and enjoy. And despite the fact that they were created about extra than 50 decades by six distinct composers, Mr. Bernstein’s thoughtful and expressive preparations weave them into a coherent total, a larger suite-like function that ponders the that means of the blues.

The opener, “River’s Invitation,” illustrates the most significantly despondent notion of the blues, poetically expressed Ms. Russell’s person is nowhere to be discovered, and now a watery grave is beckoning to her. Sticking carefully to the funky backbeat, she phrases

Percy Mayfield’s

lyric largely in short, staccato bursts (“I spoke . . . to the river . . .”) still she gets the which means out just the similar.

Steven Bernstein


Jacob Blickenstaff

Intimate relationships—and their endings—are the concentrate of the two oldest songs below. “Careless Love” has Ms. Russell, bitter and angry, castigating enjoy alone for bringing “the incorrect male into this lifestyle of mine.” Mr. Bernstein’s chart is set in an early New Orleans jazz two-defeat, but the horn crafting is remarkably informed by ’40s and ’50s rhythm-and-blues bands. Ms. Russell’s choose on

Bessie Smith’s

“Good Old Wagon” illustrates how Smith and her fellow blues divas of the 1920s ended up just about anything but victims—they have been amongst the most empowered females in all of audio. The number compares the singer’s ex-lover to a decrepit outdated vehicle, and the track ends with an prolonged, cacophonic brass eruption—led by Mr. Bernstein participating in the archaic slide trumpet—that sounds like an aged wagon breaking down.

Professor Longhair’s “Baby Allow Me Maintain Your Hand” (1957) commences slowly, with Ms. Russell moaning wordlessly, before it abruptly but gracefully shifts into a rocking, New Orleans-fashion parade beat. Ms. Russell sings with these kinds of earthy sensuality right here that she implies pursuits far extra intimate than parading or hand-keeping, producing the range far more carnal than carnival.

Earl King’s “Come On” is a reminder that the blues is not always about solving issues (or even creating them). A lot more than just about anything else, it’s an invitation to get together. Mr. Bernstein’s arrangement emphasizes the baritone sax, a great deal as the 1960 first does, but areas out the lyrics so that there’s a ton of instrumental action in concerning every single line—it’s a new strategy to combining the human voice with instruments.

“Yes We Can,” which opens with a powerful cadenza from violinist

Charlie Burnham,

conveys a information of pure optimism—and social activism—suggesting that we can “iron out our complications,” “respect the females of the earth,” and “take care of all the young children.” (By some means the complications of the earth as a total look a lot easier to solve than personal associations.) And certainly, it is implied, we should also dance and celebrate. This observe is the 1 that I’ll in all probability perform the most frequently just after all, who would not want to save the world and boogie down at the exact same time?

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