Steven Bernstein draws on an odd combination of influences, including New Orleans R&B, marching band music, and traditional jazz, on his new Sex Mob album. Most performances are relatively brief, and ensemble work, rather than long solos, is emphasized.
Sex Mob's music has a riotous, good-humored quality. Led by Bernstein on slide trumpet and mellophone, the outfit includes alto and baritone saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen, and guest violinists and cellists appear as well. All of the arrangements and most of the compositions were written by Bernstein, but there are tunes here by Duke Ellington, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Stephen Stills, and James Brown.
The group parodies many New Orleans forms in particular, sometimes getting pretty thick -- as on the tongue-in-cheek cover of "Ruby Tuesday." By playing slide trumpet, Bernstein's able to bend pitches more easily than on a conventional trumpet, leading to amusing effects. At times, Sex Mob deliberately uses clichés, albeit distorted ones. The band doesn't always play loudly and aggressively, however; much of its performance of "For What It's Worth" is introspective.
Krauss and Wollesen are generally regarded as avant-garde jazz performers, but they and Scherr are versatile players whose familiarity with R&B serves them well here. Bernstein hasn't been playing slide trumpet long, but his work on this album is much cleaner than on the first Sex Mob CD, 1998's Din of Inequity. He deserves a lot of the credit for his original group concept as well; this music is both well-played and funny.