Andy Statman

Old Brooklyn

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Andy Statman has tended to compartmentalize his two instruments and two performing styles, on the one hand, a bluegrass mandolin player, on the other, a klezmer clarinetist, even to the point, for instance, of simultaneously issuing albums in each mode, as he did in 2006 with East Flatbush Blues and Awakening from Above, respectively. On 2011's Old Brooklyn, he endeavors to mix his approaches and give full rein to his talents; not surprisingly, it takes him two CDs and more than 90 minutes to do it. Among the 25 tracks can be found a lyrical unaccompanied clarinet performance ("Life Cycles") as well as a bluegrass number in the manner of Bill Monroe, albeit with drums ("Long Journey Home"). In between, it's possible to hear just about everything in between. On various tunes, Statman employs some traditional bluegrass players, notably fiddler Byron Berline, banjoist Béla Fleck, and banjo and fiddle player Bruce Molsky, as well as horn men Art Baron and Lew Soloff, and even Paul Shaffer on his various keyboards. Early on, notably on the opening title song and "Totally Steaming," the musicians cross the border from klezmer to Ornette Coleman-style free jazz. They also bring in early rock & roll and blues on occasion ("Bourbon in Jackson Hole," "21st Century Chicken Shack Back Blues"). And there's even a gospel spiritual, "The Lord Will Provide," with a vocal by Ricky Skaggs that is basically a cappella, although the singing interweaves with Statman's clarinet soloing. Much of the time, however, the disc goes back and forth between the leader's big loves, presenting bluegrass on one track led by mandolin, followed by klezmer on the next, as the clarinet returns. What ties it all together is Statman's virtuosity on his instruments, virtuosity that is often matched by a talented and adventurous batch of backup musicians.

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