Tinnitist TV | Episode 58: Steven Bernstein

The slide-trumpet maverick on Community Music, rock-star collaborations & more.


“Music For All Occasions.” That’s how Steven Bernstein signs off his emails. Kitschy? Sure. But it’s also right on the money.

For the past several decades, the slide-trumpet master, bandleader and gifted arranger/composer has lent his tremendous talents to a who’s who of music — he’s performed or recorded with John Lurie‘s Lounge Lizards, Little Feat, Levon Helm, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, Trey Anastasio and even Coheed And Cambria. Not bad for a guy who grew up as a jazz fanatic in the San Francisco Bay area and claims he still doesn’t pay attention to rock music. And all of those credits come on top of his own groundbreaking albums leading bands like Sex Mob, Spanish Fly, The Hot 9 and the Millennial Territory Orchestra. The latter outfit are responsible for his latest and most ambitious achievement: The four-album Community Music series, which wraps up with the fourth and final volume Popular Culture, featuring New Orleans-flavoured arrangements of songs by everyone from Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus to The Grateful Dead and George Harrison. Recently, Bernstein had occasion to hop on Zoom for a lengthy, freewheeling chat about Community Music, being impressed by Michael Stipe, a Sex Mob reunion, what it’s like to play with Hot Tuna, Little Feat and Phil Lesh in the same week, and tons more. Enjoy.