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Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite

Steven Bernstein’s fourth entry in his ongoing Diaspora series (previously: Soul, Blues, Hollywood) is the most freewheeling thus far, a laissez-faire affair that shifts the recording location, and the sensibility, to the anything-goes/toss-it-all-into-the-mix Bay Area. There, Bernstein, a trumpeter so constantly in-demand the word “prolific” would only make him sound lazy, assembled a nonet’s worth of old friends and kindred souls and let them have at it. The results vary in intensity, freedom and level of spontaneous combustion, but the jams are never dull.

Like the previous volumes, Diaspora Suite sets off to sea from a Jewish port. But it quickly assimilates-nearly a decade and countless touring miles into the franchise, the Diaspora model has evolved. By titling each track after one of the Biblical Jacob’s sons, the namesakes of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Bernstein gives notice from the onset that, like those brothers, his crew’s mission is to spread forth and occupy vast territory. And where better than San Francisco (although it was actually recorded in Oakland), with its rich history of boundary-busting jazz, rock, funk, blues and Latin music-all of it fair game here-to do so?

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