“Gimme a Pigfoot” speaks to the ageless quality of jazz, as Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein weave together strands both old and decidedly contemporary. They come off, by turns, like rowdy saloon players, hipster iconoclasts and cooly urbane modernists — all within the confines of this six-minute triumph.
That makes for a high-water mark on a new Impulse release titled Viper’s Drag that, really, is just drowning in them. Accompanied by a smart group including some Wynton Marsalis band vets called the Hot 9, Butler works as the fleet-fingered featured soloist while Bernstein — as he does throughout — focuses on arranging with vim and vinegar.
Together, they’re breathing new life into a once-proud jazz label, illustrating how styles like 1920s-era New Orleans Dixieland, mid-century Kansas City jump blues and today’s hipster downtown scene can co-exist (not just within a band, or even an album, but inside one chin-wagging outburst of brassy creativity) and making the case, all over again, for a future in this music that builds on the past — rather than fetishizing it.
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