Old Brooklyn from Andy Statman

Andy Statman has been something of an enigma to the bluegrass world for the past 40 years. Clearly a master mandolinist with a demonstrated facility in the bluegrass idiom, he was even as a teenager drawn to incorporating elements of other musical styles into his playing with avant grade string bands like Country Cooking in the 1970’s.

As Statman tells it..

“I was basically training myself to be able to move down to Nashville and to get a job with Jimmy Martin. Bill Monroe and Bobby Osborne and Jim and Jesse—all these guys were my heroes, and still are.”

But he was also being called by the jazz music from the same era as that of his bluegrass heroes: Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

And at the same time, Andy developed a fascination and a serious passion for playing klezmer music on the clarinet. By the end of the ’70s he was at the forefront of a klezmer revivalist movement, with his recording Jewish Klezmer Music with Zev Feldman widely hailed as a masterpiece.

Staman’s next milestone was the album Flatbush Waltz, an acoustic jazz mandolin project released in 1980. Since that time he has been more visible with his clarinet, including a brilliant record with David Grisman on mandolin, New Shabbos Waltz – A Collection of Timeless Jewish Melodies. That one was released in 2006, the same year that saw East Flatbush Waltz, a mando-centered project.

Andy drew relation to that fact when discussing his new album, Old Brooklyn, released October 25 on Shefa Records.

“I had put out two albums about five years ago—one was a mandolin record, the other a clarinet album. This time, we wanted to do a record that would combine both, so I wound up writing a whole bunch of original music and finding some songs I knew that would be good for the ensembles we had put together.

It’s sort of our own take on a number of different roots traditions, and non-roots traditions. It draws from jazz and improvised music.

You know, every genre has its own emotional and structural categories.”

The bulk of the 2-CD set features Staman with his touring group (Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on Drums), plus Jon Stolle on guitar and Byron Berline on fiddle. Guest performers include Ricky Skaggs, Béla Fleck, Bruce Molsky, and Late Night band leader Paul Shaffer. Several of the tracks are recorded as duets, including a clarinet/vocal piece with Skaggs.

Here’s a taste of one of the tunes.

A Brighter Day: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/brighter_day.mp3]

Shefa also put together a video introduction to help demonstrate the scope and breadth of Old Brooklyn.

The 2 CD set and MP3 downloads are being marketed through Amazon.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.