Andy Statman, with Bela Fleck and Ricky Skaggs – Old Brooklyn (2011)

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Progressive bluegrass and old-time jazz collide on the forthcoming Old Brooklyn in the person of Andy Statman, the clarinet and mandolin virtuoso. There are times, in fact, when you hear a little of both even within one of his brilliantly multifaceted solos throughout this two-CD set, to be issued Oct. 25 on Shefa Records.

Actually, there’s more still to Statman, who first came to fame as a leader in the klezmer revival of the late 1970s. Statman’s also toured and recorded with David Grisman, Vassar Clements and Itzhak Perlman — and earned a 2007 Grammy nomination for country instrumental for an update of Bill Monroe’s 1952 “Raw Hide” found on East Flatbush Blues.

But he always had a concurrent career in the world of straight-ahead jazz, having released the mandolin-led Flatbush Waltz jazz record the same year as 1979’s Jewish Klezmer Music. Statman began his journey with the high-lonesome picking of Bill Monroe butthen continued through the urban abstractions of Charles Mingus and Charlie Parker, then into the old-world complexities of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang.

Here, Statman expands his long-time trio of bassist Jim Whitney and drummer Larry Eagle to include guitarist Jon Sholle and fiddle player Byron Berline, along with special guests Ricky Skaggs, Béla Fleck, Lew Soloff, Bruce Molsky and Paul Shaffer. Together, they set about melding practices from every important school of sound in mid-century American life — from jazz to backwoods country, from rockabilly to gutbucket blues.

There are also these quietly effective moments, like coming across old photos from a different age: Skaggs, also paired with Statman for a duet, sings “The Lord Will Provide” with an intimate reverence. Molsky, the old-time fiddler, is particularly effective at recalling a bygone era on a pair of showcases with Statman.

But this group never sits still for long. Take the thrillingly complex title track, which starts off with a chugging tangle of mandolin and banjo, before Statman unleashes an angular clarinet solo straight out of Albert Ayer. When the tune abruptly gears up into a roaring, lap steel-driven section, it’s like a moment from Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band — where anything, absolutely anything, goes. Later, Statman boogies his way through a rocked-out version of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met My Baby” then plucks happily along to Paul Scaffer’s gurgling B3 on a new arrangement of “21st Century Chicken Shack Black Blues.” He and Fleck, playing the banjo, run through “My Hollywood Girls” so quickly, you can almost smell the ozone.

In the end, this is jazz without the newfangled conservatism, country without the painted-over cornpone humor — an intriguing place where everything old is, in fact, new once more.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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