Making A Scene presents an Interview with Andy Statman!
Andy Statman was born in New York City and grew up in the borough of Queens. Beginning at age 12, he learned to play banjo and guitar, following the example of his older brother Jimmy, and then switched to mandolin, which he studied briefly under lifelong-friend David Grisman.
He learned to play R&B and jazz saxophone, for a time under the tutelage of Richard Grando, who played saxophone in Earth Opera. As a teenager Statman was already performing in public in Washington Square Park and with local string bands. In 1969 he attended Franconia College in Franconia, New Hampshire, but eventually dropped-out to pursue a musical career.
He first gained acclaim as a mandolinist as a sideman with David Bromberg and Russ Barenberg, as well as in the pioneering bluegrass bands Country Cookin’ and Breakfast Special.
During the course of exploring a wide range of roots and ethnic music, Statman turned to klezmer music, traditional Eastern European Jewish instrumental music. This led Statman, who grew up in a traditional but secular Jewish home, to reconnect with his Jewish roots.
Statman studied klezmer clarinet during the 1970s with legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, who bequeathed several of his clarinets to him. Statman also produced Dave Tarras’s last recording. As a clarinetist, he recorded several albums that were highly influential in the Klezmer revival of those years. Still forging ahead musically, he began playing Chassidic melodies, fusing bluegrass, klezmer, and jazz along the way. Given his apprenticeship with Tarras and his subsequent master classes at workshops such as KlezKamp as well as privately, Statman became a renowned exponent of traditional Jewish and avant-garde clarinet styles.
The Andy Statman Trio, which includes bassist Jim Whitney and percussionist Larry Eagle, plays regularly at Derech Amuno Synagogue in Greenwich Village in New York City, and tours nationally as schedules allow.
In 1983, he performed on the Antilles Records release Swingrass ’83.
He has participated in a yearly klezmer concert series with Itzhak Perlman and other klezmer superstars.
In 2007, he was a Grammy Awards nominee in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category for his version of Bill Monroe’s “Rawhide” on Shefa CD East Flatbush Blues.
In 2008, Statman appeared as a guest on the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones holiday album Jingle All the Way, playing both clarinet and mandolin. The album won Best Pop Instrumental Album at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. He joined the group in concert on December 10 at the University at Buffalo, Center for the Arts, and December 16 at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center.
Old Brooklyn, a multi-artist recording project, was released in October 2011 on Shefa Records. This double CD features the American roots, R&B, Chassidic and other sides of his music, performed with his trio, Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on drums and percussion, along with fiddler Byron Berline and guitarist Jon Sholle. Guest artists include Ricky Skaggs, Béla Fleck, Paul Shaffer, Bruce Molsky, Art Baron, Marty Rifkin, Bob Jones, Lew Soloff, Kristen Muller and John Goodman. His next album was Superstring Theory, released in November 2013, which hosts fiddler Michael Cleveland and guitarist Tim O’Brien.
On June 19, 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that Andy Statman would be awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. He performed with other recipients of this fellowship in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2012.