Henry Butler comes from a line of New Orleans piano geniuses, virtuosi who command any style under the syncopated sun. Steven Bernstein comes from a career of collaboration, blowing a slide trumpet all over downtown New York and writing arrangements for just about any medium and context. Both share a love for Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith — Butler grew up in New Orleans, and Bernstein leads the pre-war Millennial Territory Orchestra — and for injecting personal, modern twists into anything they do. And when they met on stage recently, they knew they had to collaborate deeper.
Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9 released a 2014 album, Viper's Drag, that showcases their party-minded take on early repertoire. Jazz Night In America visits the venue where they first worked together as a band, the Jazz Standard in New York City, for a set from the group.