Andy Statman / Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge
Wisdom Understanding Knowledge: Melodies of the Lubavitcher Chassidim
CD available from www.MayonMedia.com
About 20 years ago Andy Statman recorded an album titled, simply, "Jewish Klezmer Music" with Zev Feldman. It was the first klezmer album that excited me, and it generated enough excitement on its own to drag me deep into the revival scene. After a flurry of albums in the late 1990s, he stopped recording for several years. He hasn't stopped touring, though, appearing frequently with a combo playing something he purposefully does not describe as klezmer (although it includes much klezmer), or with bluegrass all-star ensembles such as "Wayfaring Strangers".
If this album gets much circulation, people will be talking about new Statman music again. Although the backup band, as usual, is more workadik than inspired, Statman's own clarinet and mandolin are as deep, soulful, and incendiary as ever. The opening "Rikud" (dance) is as good as he has ever played klezmer. His soulful "Ki Hinei Ka'Chomer (here I am as raw material [in your hands])/Yom Kippur Eve Melody" and the all-too-short "Hisbonenus" show that the years have only improved his ability to speak with the clarinet. His rendition of the Lubavitch "Avinu Malkeinu" (not the more familiar Ashkenazic cantorial masterpiece) is almost as moving as the more familiar melody.
Those familiar with hassidic nign in general, or with Lubavitch nign in particular, might notice the difference between a nign as it is sung by the human voice, humming, say, around a shabbes table, and the improvisation and changes that Statman introduces in his playing here. Partly this can be ascribed to the difference between human voice and instrumental voice. But this is also a reflection of the fact that for Statman, the nign is a starting point. He has one of the richest musical imaginations performing. From my perspective, for him to focus on the hypnotic repetition of a nign would make no sense. The liner notes suggest that he is also, in part, trying to revitalize Jewish instrumental traditions which have been frozen or stagnant for decades in America. If so, they are stagnant no more.
(The person writing the liner notes might want to look up the meaning of the word "fulsome"—it does not mean "overflowing with" as seems intended in the text. He or she shoudl also consider that the eye can read about 60 characters across before losing place. Using teensy type in a single column layout across the width of a CD panel is one sure way to ensure that the reader will miss much of what is written.)
This is just an awesome CD. The title is "Wisdom Understanding Knowledge" (Khokhma beena dei-a) and the music reflects all of those attributes. Statman's mandolin (as on "Nye Zuritzi"—don't worry) and clarinet are at peak. According to the folks who sent me this review copy, the drought of new Andy Statman work is ending. Three more CDs slated to come out soon: "a Jewish one with his Trio for a company called Brassland; a live Trio CD for Radio Bremen in Germany; and a sort of avant-gardish improv with drummer Bob Meyer on John Zorn's Tzaddik label." In the meantime, this is wonderful music. If you love klezmer, or hassidic music, or bluegrass, this is essential listening. Enjoy.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 10/4/04
Personnel this recording:
Andy Statman: Bb, C, and Eb clarinets, mandolin
Jim Whitney: acoustic bass
Larry Eagle: drums, percussion
Moshe Feldman: piano
- Rikkud—Chassidic Dance (Rabbi Hillel Paritcher) 3:49
- Ki Hinei Ka'Chomer—Yom Kipur Eve Melody (Rabbi Aharon Charitonow of Nikolaev) 2:46
- Deveykus Niggun (Alter Rebbe's Chassidim) 5:38
- Nye Nuritzi—Don't worry (Mitteler Rebbe's Chassidim) 4:04
- Niggun L'Shabbos V'Yom Tov&mdashSong for the Sabbath and Festivals (Rabbi Aharon Charitonow of Nikolaev) 4:11
- Niggun Hisva'adus—Song for Chassidic Gathering (Rabbi Aharon Charitonow of Nikolaev) 3:05
- Hisbonenus—Contemplation (Andy Statman) 1:54
- Niggun Simchah—Song of Joy (Rabbi Aharon Charitonow of Nikolaev) 2:13
- Yemin HaShem—"Your right hand, O G-d" (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch) 3:34
- Avinu Malkeinu—"Our Father, Our King" (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) 3:53
- Hakafos Niggun—Melody for rejoicing with the Torah (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch) 2:39