The Andy Statman Quartet
Between Heaven and Earth:

Music of the Jewish Mystics

Album cover: Lovely painting of Jacob's ladder. Unprofessionally squeezed type.

The Andy Statman Quartet
Between Heaven and Earth:

Music of the Jewish Mystics
Shanachie 64079, 1997

Well, let's see. On how many counts can I disqualify myself from reviewing this album? (It's a rhetorical question. I'm going to go right ahead, anyway.) I am not sympathetic to Hasidism, which I regard as the Jewish form of medieval fundamentalism. I am not particularly knowledgeable in jazz or bluegrass. And, despite Statman's long history with the klezmer revival, he is very careful to describe this album as what it is: a jazz album, influenced a bit by bluegrass, and very much by the melodies, including klez, that speak to his spirituality.

We've all been there before. I am sure that I was not the only person who cringed at having the soul-free pyrotechnic noodlings of John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana in the early Seventies described as an expression of some spiritual journey. And having an album based on Jewish music sources subtitled "Music of the Jewish Mystics" (not just Jewish mystics, but the Jewish Mystics) is less than trust-inspiring.

So, in some senses, this album could be regarded as a lesson in reviewer's hubris. It is not klezmer--just as the album notes carefully describe. I should have trusted more to Statman's amazing musical ability, because this is an album that goes much, much deeper than usual. It succeeds on a spiritual level. And, where last year's Grisman/Statman collaboration left me feeling impressed, but empty, this album is the real thing.

Although the piano on "You were revealed" reminds me of nothing so much as McCoy Tyner's work with John Coltrane, there are also times, such as on "Chassidic waltz" or the intense tracking of mandolin and clarinet on "Purim" where Statman's mandolin and clarinet do seem to touch something special and deep spiritually. The liner notes, although not professionally designed, provide interesting explanations of all aspects of the songs recorded, included their spiritual import as Statman has learned it, and are sufficiently comprehensive to satisfy the need of the initially-casual listener (I doubt that anyone who even casually listens to this album will ever again here it without focusing.), and to pique the interest of those who wish to know more.

All in all, this is an album very much worth listening to, for anyone, including klez aficionados, interested in any aspect of Jewish music.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 2/10/97.

Andy Statman: clarinets, mandolin
Kenny Werner: piano
Harvie Swartz: acoustic bass
Bob Weiner: drums/percussion

Béla Fleck: 5-string banjo
David Grisman: mandolin
Scott Lee: acoustic bass (track 4)

Song Titles

  1. Maggid
  2. You were revealed
  3. Adir
  4. Chassidic waltz
  5. Yonah
  6. Reb Nachman's deveykus niggun
  7. Purim
  8. Tzamah nafshi
  9. If not for ...

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