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 in 1950 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 Statman's older brother started bringing home bluegrass records, Statman took up the guitar and banjo, eventually switching to mandolin under the tutelage of David Grisman.
He was soon performing with local bands at multiple 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 Adzerbaijani 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 100 recordings, including 20 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, from the New York Times to Billboard to Rolling Stone. He gives master classes in colleges and music camps, and has authored several music books and instructional DVDs.
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Sample: "Yedid Nefesh"