(Courtesy of Lark Street Music) This Sunday night February 9 at 7 p.m., Davar Institute at 1500 Sussex Ave in Teaneck will host live and in-person Andy Statman and his Bluegrass Band, “Andy’s Ramble” consisting of Andy on mandolin, Marc Horowitz on banjo, Gene Yellin on guitar and Tim Kiah on standup bass
Statman, a virtuoso mandolinist, clarinetist and composer, has been a major figure in both Jewish music and Bluegrass for more than four decades. He was also highly influential in the ‘70s Klezmer revival. He later broadened his interest to include Chasidic tunes, which he infuses with bluegrass, klezmer and jazz.
Statman, an Orthodox Jew, was born in 1950 and grew up in Queens into a family of cantors, composers and both classical and vaudeville musicians. He was inspired by his brother’s bluegrass band and began playing guitar and banjo at age 11. By age 15, he had learned to play the mandolin and saxophone. Through his late teenage years he played the saxophone and mandolin in free jazz, funk, rock, Chicago blues and other bands. He also got involved with ethnic music and he counts Dave Tarras and Albert Ayler as major personal influences. He became Tarras’ protegé; Tarras wrote a number of melodies for him and wanted Statman to carry on his legacy. He later bequeathed to him four clarinets.
As a clarinetist, Statman began to focus on the sublimely ecstatic centuries-old Chasidic melodies that were part of the religious path he had come to follow. This led to a galvanization of Klezmer music with the spiritually oriented avant-garde jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler, which he combined with various Middle Eastern and Eastern European styles, thus creating his own musical language.
Statman is a Grammy nominee and has appeared on more than 100 recordings, including Jewish Klezmer Music a groundbreaking album; Flatbush Waltz, a mandolin masterpiece of post-bebop jazz improvisations and ethnically inspired original compositions; and Between Heaven and Earth, which featured Chasidic melodies with a Coltrane oriented approach and was one of the New York times top releases of 1997.
He has recorded and toured with Itzchak Perlman, Ricky Skaggs, Bela Fleck, David Grisman, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Stephane Grapelli, Dr. John and many others.
“Pretty much everything I do is improvisation,” Statman said. “Even the melody is a little bit different each time. Music is an endless thing. (There are) always new things to learn, new ways to play old tunes. It’s a tremendously rewarding and enriching experience for an individual, and a vehicle to uplift people, which is even better.”
In 2012, Statman, as The New York Times put it, “finally achieved the kind of acclaim that ratifies a career...the National Endowment for the Arts named him one of nine winners of a National Heritage Fellowship, an award given in previous years to figures like B. B. King. In its citation to Mr. Statman, the endowment invoked The New Yorker’s description of him as ‘an American visionary.’”
Tickets are limited, and are available in advance at Lark Street Music in Teaneck or at the door.