5 Questions with the Renowned Mandolin and Clarinet Virtuoso

By David Cohen | Managing Editor AJT

Andy Statman with the AJTs David Cohen and Elie Cohen after the show.

On Sunday night, Atlanta locals were subject to a rare treat. Klezmer and new acoustic legends, Andy Statman and the Andy Statman Trio performed at the MJCCA in Dunwoody. It was Statman’s first appearance in Atlanta in nearly 20 years.

The show was an eclectic mix of klezmer, new acoustic and progressive bluegrass music. Bassist Jim Whitney was able to melodically fill in both low and mid range notes while Statman artfully played the lead on clarinet and mandolin. Percussionist Larry Eagle rounded out the trio with his jazz inspired rhythm. After the show, I got a chance to sit down with Andy and speak with him about his unique style, his Jewish heritage and future projects.

Here is what he had to say:

David Cohen|AJT: Your latest album Superstring Theory, was released in October of 2013 and is a mix of Bluegrass, Jazz and Klezmer music. How do you go about combining those three styles?

Andy Statman: “I have studied a number of styles very deeply and I can play each of those styles but for the last few years I’ve just been playing and writing my own music as well as interpreting other peoples music but in my own, highly improvisational way. It’s just playing music, I’m not really so concerned with style but at the same time I think if you try something like that you really have to know how to play that style.”

AJT: What are you working on these days?

Statman: “I’m writing a lot of music, we are going to be doing two records. One will be a record inspired by Bill Monroe not all of his tunes but some that I wrote which have a connection with human spirit in that style of music. We’re not quite sure how we are going to do the album, we might do it as a trio or maybe with one or two additions.”

(Above) “The Andy Statman Trio” in Action

AJT: Your performance tonight was very informal and also very educational. Is that inspired by your Jewish background?

Statman: “The specific Jewish music I play, I play because of my Jewish background. I was fortunate to study with perhaps the greatest Klezmer musician in North America, Dave Tarras. I really learned that style and repertoire. When I became interested in Klezmer music I realized that Klezmer is basically an instrumental version of Chassidic music more or less. So, much of the melodies we play are Jewish music and it’s very very creative music.

AJT: How often do you play as a trio these days?

Statman: “There’s an old historic synagogue in the West Village that we play twice a week at. We also play clubs and concerts around New York and do tours together. We haven’t played here in Atlanta since the 1990’s with Itzhak Perlman.”

AJT: Who are some are your favorite Jewish Bluegrass Musicians?

Statman: He’s not as well known but John Shole is one of the best bluegrass guitarists out there. Pete Wernick and Bela Fleck are two great Jewish Banjoists. Obviously (mandolinist) David Grisman as well.

Superstring Theory by the Andy Statman Trio is available now at www.andystatman.org.