Andy Statman - Awakening from Above
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cd cover Andy Statman
Awakening from Above
East Flatbush Blues
Shefa Records (www.andystatman.org)

Bluegrass breakdowns and Hassidic niggunim are two of the most disparate forms of music. The likelihood of finding one musician who is master of both, and on instruments as dissimilar as mandolin and clarinet to boot, is improbable. Fortunately for the world, there is Andy Statman, a musician of consummate skill and passion. He made his name as a mandolin wiz, playing with the likes of David Bromberg, Vassar Clements and Bela Fleck, all the while exploring the music of Jewish mysticism on clarinet.

With drummer Larry Eagle and double bassist Jim Whitney, he has released two CDs simultaneously that explore the two sides of his shiny musical coin. Awakening from Above is an ecstatic collection of Eastern European Jewish music. His luxuriant improvisations seem to come from a place that is so intimate and soulful that it makes you blush to listen to them. Eagle and Whitney contribute minimalist accompaniment - a few drum beats here, a bass drone there, allowing Statman to swoop and dive and soar. His improvisation on Reb Michel Zlotchover's "Deveykus Niggun" is a lengthy free jazz treatment of a traditional 18th century niggun (song for cleaving to God.) Whitney's bass growls in the bottom and Eagle provides light cymbal taps while Statman rhapsodizes with rich, coppery trills and runs. It's music that is not so much listened to as absorbed through the pores.

East Flatbush Blues is bluegrass for people who are burned out on bluegrass, newgrass, acid grass and all their seedlings. If you think you've heard tunes such as "Arkansas Traveler," "Golden Slippers," and "Old Joe Clark," think again. Statman and crew pay brief lip service to these chestnuts before veering off into directions never dreamed of by Bill Monroe in his wildest imaginings. Their rendition of "Old Joe Clark?" (question mark added by the musicians) is Albert Ayler meets the Stanley Brothers. It's ten minutes and one second of deconstructing and reconstructing Old Joe - at times using a chain saw and at other times a pair of tweezers. Statman and his henchmen seem to take great pleasure in messing with our heads. The pleasure's reciprocal. - Peggy Latkovich

CDs available from cdRoots
Awakening from Above
East Flatbush Blues

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