Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
oey Baron, one of the co-founders of the Boston Jewish Music Festival, told the crowd he had made good on a promise to himself from a years back. He knew he would bring Andy Statman and David Grisman to the festival. He just didn't know when.
Baron achieved his goal on the opening night of the third annual BJMF with generally strong results.
The night was slow in starting. Not only did it start more than 20 minutes late, but once Statman and his trio went on stage, it was another 6 before they played. Statman yapped and yapped with the problem apparently being finding some place to put his mandolin.
Musically, Statman kicked off the evening with his trio playing jazzy, Klezmer-oriented songs with his clarinet playing infusing the material with the Klezmer sound. Statman was ably backed by his decade-old trio of Jim Whitney on bass and drummer Larry Eagle. Sometimes Statman's sharp playing - whether on clarinet or later on mandolin - provided a sharp contrast to the jazz purveyed by the rhythm section.
The evening picked up markedly - for the most part - with the two playing together.
Grisman showed up for the second half of the show as the two have a long history together, acting as a mutual admiration society for each other in concert. "David is my teacher and my inspiration," Statman said early in the second set. "If it wasn't for David and my parents, I wouldn't be here." Grisman pretty much repeated the praise in kind.
The energy was palpable between them ranging from covering Bill Monroe to a traditional Jewish Sabbath melody Shalom Aleichem, (Peace Be Unto You) done slowly with both on mandolin.
They later tackled the well-known Israeli song Yerushalyim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) from their 2006 "New Shabbos Waltz" CD with Grisman's son, Sam, handling the upright bass chores quite capably. They provided a good musical reinterpretation of the song from the 1967 Six Day War.
The excellent stretch of music continued with Statman's The Flatbush Waltz, showing yet a different musical side, and Grisman's closing Fanny Hill, done with Monroe in mind - bluegrass and fast.
The one problem was when Statman and Grisman veered towards jam band territory. That meant ultra long mandolin meanderings. There just wasn't enough diversity when both players held the mandolin in their hands. At least Grisman had the good judgment to joke about saying one tune was recorded for their "Mandolin Abstactions" CD from 1981. "We did about 27 of these things," Grisman said. "It never sold very well."
The song never took off. Shorter definitely would have been better,
Due to the late start and a 10-minute intermission, which turned into almost 25, there was no encore, a rarity these days although that was deserved.
Despite that, the paring of Statman and Grisman, which only happens a few times a year according to Statman, was an exciting foray into jazz and bluegrass. This was a welcome night with musicians who can play, proving that music can make dreams come true.