Creative Spaces: Steven Bernstein's Jazz Lab

Backroom Retreat Provides Space for Musical Detective Work

For two decades, jazz trumpeter Steven Bernstein has been stretching music in new directions with avant-garde jazz groups such as the Lounge Lizards and the Sex Mob. His latest band, the Millennial Territory Orchestra, is a nine-piece ensemble with a regular Monday night gig at the Jazz Standard in New York City.

Jazz trumpeter Steven Bernstein

Jazz trumpeter Steven Bernstein Chris Tsakis hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Tsakis

The group slides between the old and the new, taking musical cues from talented but little-known jazz bands from the 1920s and '30s that worked the juke joints and ballrooms of the Cotton Belt and the Midwest.

Bernstein sees himself as a musical detective who's always on the hunt for music that's been overlooked by classic jazz. When Bernstein does this detective work, he heads away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the small town of Nyack, N.Y. There, he lives in a gingerbread Victorian, surrounded by a riot of summer blooms and a smattering of children's toys.

Inside, the decor has the feel of a cozy bed-and-breakfast. At the back of his house is the room he calls his "laboratory." It's a busy, cluttered space, with every surface covered and every shelf filled.

For Creative Spaces, an All Things Considered series that explores the studios, offices, hideaways and hamlets of artists, Michele Norris talks with Bernstein about his laboratory and the space it gives him to write music, experiment and take jazz in new directions.

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