Alternative Jewish Music: Great Artists

October 19, 2009 3 min read

Daniel Zamir
Genre: Jazz
Instrument: Alto and Soprano Sax
Albums: Children of Israel, Satlah, Exodus, Amen, I Believe

Recently, Zamir was in the headlines, as Tzippi Livni brought her husband to one of his concerts for their 25th wedding anniversary. Livni told Zamir that she told Bill Clinton that she would send him a copy of his stuff. Obviously, Zamir was tickled by the thought. But here’s the thing – this young Baal Teshuva is one of the brightest lights in the Israeli jazz world, so it’s no surprise that he’s going places. If you’re looking for pure jazz, with a dash of Yemenite spice, Zamir has got to be next on your “To Buy” list.

Andy Statman
Genre: Jazz, Bluegrass, Klezmer, Improv, Fusion, Folk
Instruments: Mandolin, clarinet
Jewish Albums:
• 1979 Jewish Klezmer Music
• 1992 Andy Statman Klezmer Orchestra
• 1994 Klezmer Suite
• 1995 Doyres (Generations): Traditional Klezmer Recordings, 1979-1994
• 1995 Songs of Our Fathers
• 1996 Klezmer Music: A Marriage of Heaven & Earth
• 1997 Between Heaven & Earth: Music of the Jewish Mystics
• 1998 The Hidden Light
• 1998 Holiday Tradition
• 1998 The Soul of Klezmer
• 2000 Klezmer: From Old World To Our World
• 2001 New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs – Music From New York City’s Ethnic….
• 2004 Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge
• 2005 On Air
• 2005 Avodas Halevi
• 2006 Awakening from Above
• 2007 New Shabbos Waltz

Here’s the thing about Andy Statman. From a brief review of the above albums, it would be very easy to pinhole him as a klezmer musician, and nothing more. I mean, look at all the klezmer albums! In truth, however, Statman is what’s called “a musician’s musician”. He’s a legend in his own time, and he’s one of the few musician who defines genres, and then defies them.
So, among other things, no – he’s not just a klezmer musician. And since I don’t care that much for klezmer in any case, I don’t want to focus on that aspect of his career at all. I want to point out a certain album that is heads and shoulders above almost anything that has ever been produced. The album Between Heaven and Earth is a heavenly musical experience, and to completely understand it, you need to know a bit about its production.
It was recorded over three days. The musicians went into the studio, decided what songs they wanted to play, and just played. They rarely redid a take. This is noteworthy when you consider the intense improvisational style of the album. As a result, the emotion is so inherent that the pianist, Kenny Werner, actually broke down in tears during one of his solos. Yeah – it’s that kind of album. The first track, Maggid, is mind blowing in its sheer emotional core. Its beauty is heartrending. Secondly, the open-ended style lends itself to all kinds of experimentation. So while at times, you’re hearing jazz; and at other times you’re hearing klezmer; yet most of the time you’re hearing an amalgamation of who-knows-how-many genres. Over the entire album you’re treated to exquisite musicianship.

The truth is, if you have a discerning ear, you will hear something out of this world on every Statman CD. Like furious mandolin licks on Nye Zhuritzi on Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. Or brand new energy on tired classics, performed with mandolin virtuoso David Grisman, on New Shabbos Waltz and Songs of Our Fathers. New Shabbos Waltz, in particular, has a dynamic version of Shabbos Hayom LaHashem; a slide guitar on Yaaleh Tachanuneinu; and some wicked bass relief going on in the Breslover Lecha Dodi.

Let’s put it this way: Andy Statman is among the top of his craft in the world. And if you love creativity and virtuosity, along with depth and emotion, you must own a few Statman albums.