" Klezmer is an interpretation of art and life based not solely on Jewish folklore, but rather on a cosmopolitan divergence of musical genres" Giora Feidman 

Back |  Print  |  Bookmark
Andy Statman
 

Clarinet Klezmer between heaven and earth

Image of Andy Statman playing clarinet

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 bass.

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.

Image of Andy Statman Orchestra

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 kosher bluegrass.

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.










 

 ↑ Back to Top

 

Bookmark and Share

 

 

Giora Feidman
"We have one Torah, one shofar, one flag, and the expression of all that is the nigun, any nigun. It's not a song, it's an energy which results from an interpretation of the faith."

 

 

 

"Long live Giora, his clarinet and his music! He builds bridges between generations, cultures and classes, and he does it with perfect artistry!" Leonard Bernstein