WBGO Radar

Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein: Viper's Drag

Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein's album Viper's Drag

"Viper's Drag" is an album 30 years in the making. Henry Butler at the piano and singing. Steven Bernstein on the trumpet and leading the Hot 9.

Steven, in a band touring the West Coast in 1984, was playing a folk festival in Vancouver. Steven heard someone playing piano and remembers his excitement: "I said to my friend 'This is it! This is what music is supposed to sound like! It was the entire history of everything I love about music being played by one person.' " That one person was Henry. "That's really where this (album) started."

Henry remembers in 1998 being asked to join the touring band from the Robert Altman movie "Kansas City." Henry hadn't heard of the band's musical director, Steven. What was so enjoyable about that KC band, and the same about all the classic jazz Steven and Henry both have been playing through the years, is that they've never been retro when playing a Bessie blues or a Bix blues, a Fats song or a Jelly stomp. To them, the classic jazz on "Viper's Drag" is not historical — it's a living music, a living language that Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein speak fluently and passionately.

You can hear Henry and Steven talking about the music they love with Michael Bourne at wbgo.org/blog

And one other nice twist about the new album is that "Viper's Drag" is one of the first new albums on the resurrected legendary label Impulse — complete with the iconic orange and black spine!

  - Michael Bourne, WBGO blues hour host

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