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Andy Statman

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Clarinetist and mandolin player Andy Statman pushes the boundaries of traditional music in such diverse genres as klezmer and bluegrass. Washington, D.C., 2012, photograph by Alan Govenar
Andy Statman, Washington, D.C., 2012, photograph by Alan Govenar
Andy Statman receiving his award from NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Awards, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Andy Statman performing at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Andy Statman performing at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart

In the words of The New Yorker, "Andy Statman, clarinet and mandolin virtuoso, is an American visionary." The culmination of decades of creative development, his music expands the boundaries of traditional and improvisational forms.

Born into a long line of cantors, composers and both classical and vaudeville musicians, Statman grew up in Queens, New York. His early musical influences included klezmer records played at family gatherings, Tin Pan Alley and Broadway show tunes, his rabbi in Hebrew school singing Hasidic songs, rock and roll, big band jazz and classical music. When his older brother started bringing home bluegrass records, Statman took up the guitar and banjo, eventually switching to mandolin under the tutelage of David Grisman.

Statman was soon performing with local bands at a number of venues and on Sunday afternoons in Washington Square Park. At age 17 -- after hearing Albert Ayler -- Statman began to study saxophone, which he played in free jazz, funk, rock and Chicago blues bands while expanding his mandolin playing in similar directions. In 1970 he joined the experimental bluegrass group, Country Cooking, followed by a stint with David Bromberg's band, and then another experimental group, Breakfast Special.

Still broadening his horizons, Statman took up the clarinet and studied Greek, Albanian and Azerbaijani music. In 1975, he sought out the legendary klezmer clarinetist and NEA National Heritage Fellow Dave Tarras. Statman became Tarras' protégé, for whom the master wrote a number of melodies. Tarras wanted Statman to carry on his legacy and bequeathed four of his clarinets to the younger virtuoso.

In the late 1970s Statman recorded his first albums, Jewish Klezmer Music, a recording that became a touchstone for the 1970s klezmer revival, and Flatbush Waltz, a mandolin masterpiece of post-bebop jazz improvisations and ethnically inspired original compositions.

As a clarinetist, Statman began to zero in on the sublimely ecstatic, centuries-old Hasidic melodies that lie at the heart of klezmer music -- melodies that were embedded in the religious path he had come to follow. This led to his galvanizing klezmer music with the spiritually oriented jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler and other musics he had explored.

Statman has appeared on more than one hundred recordings, including more than twenty under his own name. He has recorded and/or toured with the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Ricky Skaggs, Béla Fleck, David Grisman, Itzhak Perlman, Vassar Clements, Stéphane Grappelli, Paul Shaffer and Kenny Werner. A Grammy nominee, Statman has been the subject of dozens of feature articles in publications including The New York Times, Billboard and Rolling Stone. He gives master classes in colleges and music camps and has authored several music books and produced instructional DVDs.

Bibliography
Freedman, Samuel G. "On Religion: A Search for God Through Bluegrass and Klezmer." New York Times, November 30, 2012.
Statman, Andy. Bluegrass Masters: Jesse McReynolds Mandolin." Music Sales Corp, 1979.
_________.
Teach Yourself Bluegrass Mandolin. Music Sales America, 1978.
_________.
Jazz Mandolin*. Homespun, 2003.

Discography
Statman, Andy. Klezmer Music. Shanachie Records, 1979.
_________. Flatbush Waltz. Rounder, 1980.
_________. Nashville Mornings, New York Nights. Rounder, 1986.
_________. Andy Statman Klezmer Orchestra. Shanachie Records, 1992.
_________. Klezmer Suite. Shanachie Records, 1994. _________. Andy's Ramble. Rounder Select/New Rounder/Rounder, 1994.
_________. Songs of Our Fathers. Acoustic Disc, 1995.
_________. Between Heaven & Earth: Music of the Jewish Mystics. Shanachie Records, 1997.
_________. The Hidden Light. Sony Music Distribution, 1998.
_________. Wisdom Understanding Knowledge. Andy Statman, 2005.
_________. Avoda Halevi. Tzadik Records, 2005.
_________. On Air. Tradition & Moderne, 2005.
_________. East Flatbush Blues. Shefa, 2006.
_________. Awakening from Above. Shefa, 2006.
_________. Old Brooklyn. Shefa, 2011. _________. Superstring Theory. Shefa, 2013. _________. Andy's Ramble. Rounder, 2015.

Filmography
Andy Statman: Learn to Play Klezmer Music -- Improvising in the Tradition. Homespun, 2006.

Watch

Andy Statman performing at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Andy Statman interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Andy Statman interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Andy Statman performing with his band at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Andy Statman performing with his band at the 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Listen

Andy Statman answers the question 'What was your upbringing in Judaism like?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman talks about how he got into bluegrass, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman talks about his first bar gig, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'Musically and stylistically, where are you at today?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'What is klezmer?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'What is the role of improvisation in klezmer?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'What does tradition mean in your life?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'How does your music dovetail with your faith?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'What keeps you going?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman answers the question 'Are you able to pass on the music?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar

Andy Statman talks about modifying traditional musical styles, Washington, D.C., 2012, Interview by Alan Govenar