Andy Statman is one of those musicians who bridged the gap between music and spirituality, without compromising
with the need of experiencing new means of expressions. He restated the meaning of traditional Jewish music,
through a prism of mysticism.
He was born in 1950 and grew up in Queens. There were many professional musicians and renowned cantors among his
ascendants. Although his parents were not practicing, they sent the little boy to an afternoon Jewish school
(Talmud Torah). There he could hear hasidic nigunim and he was in ecstasy when the rabbi sang these melodies.
At home he was exposed also to Jewish music mingled with classical music and popular showtunes. In the fifties and
early sixties, the rock and roll was reigning, but the young Andy was fascinating by bluegrass, especially after he
heard a 45rpm by the bluegrass duo of Earl Flatt and Lester Scruggs (the "Kings of Bluegrass").
He began to learn guitar and banjo with a method booklet. He had the chance, to meet David Grisman in Greenwich
Village and asked him for mandolin lessons. David Grisman was a few years older than him and he declared a few
years later that Andy was his most talented student.
Statman became literally obsessed by bluegrass and his virtuosity as a teen prodigy led him into a bluegrass band
and as a session man of such super star like Bob Dylan. In his late teens he felt that bluegrass music only was not
fulfilling him entirely, because the emotions were expressed vocally and not instrumentally. Andy was already
searching for his roots.
Inspired by John Coltrane he turned to the saxophone and began studying with a new mentor, Richard Grando, a
saxophonist who played with Art Blakey's band. Like Coltrane, Grando was exploring spiritual, mystical and ethnical
aspects of the music, as well as Hinduism, Kabbalah, African and Native American music. Grando was not only a music
teacher but a spiritual guide, a man fond of anthropology, ethnology and psychology. A great asset for the young
man craving for knowledge.
In the meanwhile he was developing a personal style of bluegrass, not always appreciated by the critics. Andy
Statman was indeed looking for a spiritual path when he reckoned that he was born a Jew and that he needed to find
his own spirituality in his music to unveil his own Jewish roots.
Gradually, he began to be an observant orthodox Jew among the hasidic community of Brooklyn. The last piece of the
puzzle was still missing, how to express the Jewish spirituality through the music. Those days, he was playing
plenty of ethnic music with different bands, and he felt that as a Jewish professional musician he had to play
somehow Jewish traditional music like it was played by his ancestors.
He had to reclaim his cultural roots, to reveal the musical tradition, to unearth te Klezmer. He was indeed one of
the major contributor of the klezmer revival in the 70s, on this side of the ocean. Giora Feidman was the one in Europe who contributed the most to the revival and popularity
of the Klezmer.
Andy found a new mentor in the person of no less than Dave Tarras, a Klezmer
legend, the great Ukrainian-born clarinet player of the beginning of the century. Dave tarras took immediately the
talented young man under his wing and bequeathed to him his precious clarinets, he taught him all his arrangements,
melodies. The collaboration was fruitful for both men, Andy Statman (with Zev Feldman) produced new recordings and
successful public performances of Tarras, it was a kind of "Tarras revival".
With the support and inspiration of his mentor, a lot of musicological research, Statman was ready to record his
first Klezmer album with Zev Feldman: "Jewish Klezmer Music" (1979). This album is a real gem and a must-have in
every cd collection. It is a tribute to the great Klezmorim of the past (Dave Tarras, Naftule
Brandwein, Abe Schwartz, Beckerman) and a milestone in the Jewish music tradition revival. Andy is
doubling on clarinet and mandolin, Zev Feldman is playing Tsimbl while Marty Confurious is accompanying on
The next album "The Andy Statman Klezmer Orchestra" (in fact a quartet)" is another stage of the Statman's delving
for his Jewish roots. In this album the Statman particular sound and characteristic playing are much prominent and
prefigure the next 20 years of music creation.
Spirituality and mysticism inhabit him, he is now a practicing Orthodox Jew and lives in Brooklyn. He is the
musician who was able to assimilate jazz improvisational style with the meditative hasidism, to transcend the
Jewish nigunim, to invent a new musical vocabulary, a new language, the Hasidic avant-garde, the Jewish jazz, the
Is the Andy Statman musical soul quest finished? I don't think so, because he is a tireless seeker, an
indefatigable searcher, always eager to find the truth, to dig deeper and deeper into the roots, the source, to
find new ways apprehending the future, new ways blending musical styles, all this whilst studying the Torah and
observing strict religious commitments.
"Songs Of Our Fathers: Traditional Jewish Melodies", "Klezmer Suite", "Avodas Halevi", "East Flatbush Blues", "The
Hidden Light", "Between Heaven and Earth" are some of the other cds released by Andy Statman. Each one is another
facet of his musical talent, of his virtuosity and of his never ending explorations.
Andy Statman is one of the most important Klezmer revivalist, the international resurgence of the Klezmer owes a
lot to his efforts to find genuine Jewish musical roots.
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