Andy Statman – Old Brooklyn – Shefa Records (2 CDs) HORN-3004/5, 96:33 [10/25/11] *****:
(Andy Statman – clarinet, mandolin; Jim Whitney – bass; Larry Eagle – drums; plus special guests Byron Berline – fiddle; Paul Shaffer – piano, keyboards; Ricky Skaggs – vocal; Bela Fleck – banjo; Bruce Molsky – banjo, fiddle; Lew Soloff – piccolo trumpet; and many others)
Described as “American roots music and prayerful Hasidic music by way of avant-garde jazz”, Andy Statman is not a stereotypical musician. Growing up in Queens, New York, he was captivated by bluegrass music. In the mid- sixties, he became part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. On the way to becoming the next Bill Monroe, he was sidetracked by the innovation of progressive jazz artists Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Already a brilliant mandolin player, he became a dual threat on clarinet.
As if the dichotomy of bluegrass and progressive jazz was not enough of a challenge, Statman became one of the principals in the revival of klezmer. The 1979 recording of Jewish Klezmer Music with Zev Feldman revitalized this genre. At the same time, his mandolin record, Flatbush Waltz established him as a viable jazz artist. This unlikely alchemy of musical forms has served him well. He has recorded and toured with David Grisman, Vassar Clements and Itzhak Perlman. He received a Grammy nomination in 2007 for his cover of Bill Monroe’s “Raw Hide” (from East Flatbush Blues). The combination of roots instrumentalism, abstract jazz and cultural idiom has created a unique bend of cerebral, spiritual music that is compelling and accessible.
Old Brooklyn is a 2-CD release, with 25 tracks (over ninety-six minutes) that explores Andy Statman’s musical vision. Elements of bluegrass, jazz (swing, progressive), rock, country and several other styles are woven together in a constantly shifting mosaic. Statman’s trio (Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on drums) is augmented by an all-star cast of musicians. Disc One opens with the title cut (a Statman original) that approximates a bluegrass jam. Guest Bruce Molsky provides an energetic banjo that tracks with Statman’s dynamic mandolin. But there are interesting variations with jazzy breaks and free form clarinet. Bela Fleck brings his considerable banjo skills to the up tempo klezmer folk of “My Hollywood Girls”. Another stalwart country session player, Byron Berline (fiddle) appears on many of the tracks, refining the genuine roots acoustics. Ricky Skaggs lends his pure tenor voice in duet with Statman’s clarinet on the John Newton (who also wrote “Amazing Grace”) hymnal, “The Lord Will Provide”. This arrangement is simple and exultant. Different types of songs include a bluesy jam (“Since I Met You Baby”), jazz balladry (“Life Cycles”) and country swing (“Sally Ann”). The latter piece features virtuosity from Berline and Statman (mandolin).
Disc Two is equally impressive in its diversity. A smoky, blues jam (“21st Century Chicken Shack Back Blues”) features veteran rocker Paul Shaffer on Hammond B3. Fleck returns on another duet, “Shabbos Nigun”. The timing between these two performers is notable. Rock bravado permeates “A Boppin’ Crib” with clarinet refrains, barrelhouse piano riffs (Shaffer), raucous fiddle (Berline) and rockabilly guitar (Jon Sholle). Through all of these arrangements, Statman’s mandolin play is dazzling. “Waltz For Mom” sketches an emotional remembrance with elegiac grace. Musical contexts range from rollicking jams (“Long Journey Home”) to religious meditation (“Mah Yedidus”) and wild improvisation (“Ocean Parkway After Dark”).
Old Brooklyn is one wild ride…and worth it!
Disc One: Old Brooklyn; My Hollywood Girls; Pretty Little Gal; The Lord Will Provide; Totally Steaming; Zhok Mahoney; Eitan And Zaidy; Since I Met You Baby; A Brighter Day; Life Cycles; Sally Ann; Y’all Come
Disc Two: Bourbon In Jackson Hole; A Boppin’ Crib; Anthem; Waltz For Mom; Ocean Parkway After Dark; Shabbos Nigun; Mah Yedidus; Blues In 3; The One In Nine; On The King’s Highway; Uncle Mo; 21stCentury Chicken Shack Back Blues; Long Journey Home
Trumpeter John Bailey, with a dream quartet- it’s all good…