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06/29/12

Andy Statman Old Brooklyn

This two-CD set by clarinetist and mandolinist Andy Statman blends progressive bluegrass, jazz, country, traditional Jewish music, folk and rock, all coming together through a unique, unifying aesthetic testifying to the ways in which these genres intertwine. The 25 tracks feature a variety of configurations, from duets to ensemble playing, with Statman’s longtime core trio and guests, among them Béla Fleck, Ricky Skaggs and Paul Shaffer.

The material is mostly Statman-penned (including “Totally Steaming,” a clarinet duet with a teakettle), with a wide range of older tunes, such as the 18th-century hymn “The Lord Will Provide,” an intimate, evocative clarinet duet with Skaggs on vocals, the Grand Ole Opry hit “Y’all Come” and the traditional Appalachian tune “Sally Ann.” Several of the originals stem from Jewish roots: “Zhok Mahoney,” based on the Eastern European zhok rhythm, features Larry Eagle’s free-jazz drumming and a brawny restatement of the melody by bassist Jim Whitney; the traditional “Shabbos Nigun” (Sabbath melody) takes the form of a clarinet duet with Fleck’s banjo; the introduction to “Life Cycles” was inspired by a Chassidic composer and rabbi.

Blues hues can be found on Ivory Joe Hunter’s 1956 classic “Since I Met You Baby,” with Art Baron on three trombones and tuba and Jon Sholle on slide guitar, while Statman’s own “Blues in 3” has an early country feeling, Marty Rifkin and Byron Berline delivering poignant solos on pedal steel and fiddle, respectively. “Ocean Parkway After Dark” is a celebration of Brooklyn and its multiculturalism, from Statman’s Balkan-flavored theme to Paul Shaffer’s 1960s Tex-Mex rock sound, Baron’s African-tinged horns and Sholle’s rockabilly guitar. The bluegrass standard “Long Journey Home” closes the project, with Bruce Molsky on fiddle and banjo; it’s a tune Statman has been playing since the early ’60s. On Old Brooklyn this master instrumentalist, expansive composer and improviser offers an exploration of American roots music with broad appeal. SHARONNE COHEN

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