Viper’s Drag

Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein

Record Details


Not only does Viper’s Drag pair trumpeter/arranger Steven Bernstein and New Orleans pianist Henry Butler as coleaders, it also rolls through the classic early-jazz songbooks of Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. The duo are backed throughout by The Hot 9, which features the horns from Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Band alongside the rhythm tandem of bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley, who’s played with Wynton Marsalis. A pianist who has the whole history of New Orleans music at his fingertips, Butler shines on “Give Me a Pigfoot” and gives a history lesson on the title track. Butler adds vocals to “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” and “Some Iko” and wrote “Henry’s Boogie” and “Dixie Walker.” For his part, Bernstein’s horn charts—big and brash, a little messy, and not afraid of some dissonance—are on par with his soundtrack work on Robert Altman’s Kansas City, particularly on cuts like “I Left My Baby” and a far-out version of “Wolverine Blues.” Far from fossils for moldy figs, this sweaty session transports old-time jazz into the new millennium.