web analytics
February 27, 2015 / 8 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Andy Statman: Klezmer Is Finished

Andy Statman no longer needs Klezmer music the way he used to.

Andy Statman no longer needs Klezmer music the way he used to.
Photo Credit: Promotional image

Andy Statman, one of the foremost Klezmer musicians in the world, knows that the time of Klezmer has passed.

“Each music has its point,” He explained over the phone while working at a Mandolin camp in California. “[Klezmer] is still alive, but in many ways it doesn’t really represent a living community. While it’s still alive and it’s great music and people enjoy it… It’s not a reflection of the time.”

At 62, Statman was the recipient of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in June for his work in bluegrass and Klezmer music. As part of the fellowship, the nation’s highest recognition for traditional and folk art,  he will receive a one-time, $25,000 grant. He has been hailed by The New Yorker as an “American visionary” and by the New York Times as a “virtuoso.” His white shirt, beard and velvet yarmulkes also display the fact that Statman is an Orthodox Jew.

Statman grew up in Queens to a traditional, yet secular Jewish family from an unbroken chain of cantors going back to the 1700′s. His house was steeped in both vaudeville and Klezmer traditions. His cousin, Sammy Fein, originally Feinberg, a self-taught musician and composer, won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Statman taught himself guitar and banjo after his brother brought home a record of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. A musical prodigy, in his teens he took up mandolin and became a well-known bluegrass musician.

After mastering saxophone and an extended foray into jazz in his mid-twenties, Statman felt the call of something else. He sought out master klezmer clarinetist Dave Terras. He says he became a “ben bayit,” a regular, at Terras’s house.

“There’s an incredible depth and spirituality to the music,” he said about Klezmer. “It connects you to the deepest part of yourself and to God. That’s what Judaism is about… In the old-time melodies, there’s, for lack of a better word, spiritual vitamins.”

Klezmer is the Eastern European musical tradition passed down from one generation to the next. (“It’s basically Chasidic music,” Statman said.) The exact history of the music was unknown to him, save for the fact that when Statman began playing Klezmer, it had almost been gone.

“A lot of where the music was played didn’t make it out,” he said. “Russia, Galicia, a lot of Chasidim. I think not only the Holocaust but there was more of an interest in preserving Judaism and the community. Music was not such a pressing concern.”

As the Klezmer revival began in the 1980’s and 90’s, Statman found himself more and more in demand, performing on records for the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

“I didn’t intentionally start the revival, I was just doing it for myself to preserve the music,” Statman said. “I wasn’t reviving something, I just wanted to keep it alive. And the whole thing sort of blossomed.”

Paradoxically, as he became more Orthodox he felt less of a pull towards Klezmer music.

“The music became very much an expression of Judaism for me, and once I began observing the mitzvot I didn’t feel the need to play the music anymore.” Statman said.

Statman returned to Klezmer in the mid-90’s when he produced “Songs of our Fathers” with his mentor David Grisman, and “In the Fiddler’s House” with Itzhak Perlman. He, along with his two band members Jim Whitney and Larry Eagle, perform regularly at the Charles Street Synagogue. His most recent CD is Old Brooklyn.

Statman now lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with his wife. His grandsons and granddaughters attend religious schools. While musically inclined, none of them have seriously taken up an instrument.

“Given the schedules of yeshiva and Beis Yakov, there’s no real time to learn it well,” he explained. “If you really want to play music well, it’s a full-time commitment. I’m practicing six hours a day.”

He sees his becoming religious as a “continuation of a seven thousand year heritage that was momentarily broken.”

About the future of Klezmer, Statman said it wasn’t bittersweet.

“Like bluegrass [music], it’s from a time and place,” he said. “It changed and the music was moving on to become something else. That’s the way it is. Styles come and go. They reflect the lives and the people who are involved in them… Each day is new.”

About the Author: Michael Orbach is the Senior New York Correspondent for JewishPress.com. His work has appeared in the JTA, The Forward, The Jewish Week and Tablet. He was previously the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Star newspaper in Long Island. He is finishing up a novel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Andy Statman: Klezmer Is Finished”

  1. Kudos to a legend in Jewish Music. What a "kiddush Hashem"!

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Photo of Al Qaeda founder and former leader, Osama Bin Laden, seen above a Palestinian Authority flag.
New York Jury Convicts Saudi Man in 1998 Al Qaeda Attack on US Embassy
Latest News Stories
Photo of Al Qaeda founder and former leader, Osama Bin Laden, seen above a Palestinian Authority flag.

A NYC jury has convicted Al Qaeda’s ‘minister of communications’ on charges connected to the 1998 bombing of a US embassy in East Africa.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu to meet with bipartisan congressional leadership before he addresses the joint session of Congress on March 3.

ISIS beheaders beware! You not are "unauthorized" in Israel. Above: James Foley and his Islamic State executioner.

Jihadi John, the British beheader in Daesh-land (Islamic State) has been tentatively identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Brit, born in Kuwait, who grew up in West London and has a degree in computer programming. His former friends who have identified him, and are positive its him.

Bus stop at Gush Etzion where Arab terrorist stabbed one person Monday morning before being shot and killed by a soldier. (June 2014)

An Arab tried to stab an IDF soldier at the Gush Etzion junction on Thursday evening.

“It is a development that I did not expect five years ago and that’s a bit shocking.”

The survey also revealed that 52 percent of the respondents have an unfavorable view of the president.

The PA says the New York court decision is “a tragic disservice to the millions of Palestinians who have invested in the democratic process and the rule of law.

No one was injured, and anti-Christian graffiti was sprayed painted on walls.

Hamas security forces stopped PA Arab writer, Atef Abu Saif, from attending a book fair in Morocco recently where the noted writer and the fiction award finalist had been nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Canadian leaders have condemned an anti-Semitic incident that left five cars damaged and their owners badly shaken in a Jewish neighborhood of Montreal this week.

Frightening anti-Semitic vandalism has arrived at a Montreal parking garage, and a Jewish neighborhood is deeply worried following damage to five cars and death threats.

Israel’s state comptroller has released a report on the nation’s housing crisis that has set off a firestorm of criticism against the government but few solutions.

Candidates from the top five Israeli parties addressed Anglo voters in Jerusalem on Wednesday; the big ‘hot button’ was Iran and the PM’s speech to Congress next week.

Israel is home to one of the few remaining growing Christian communities in the Middle East.

More Articles from Michael Orbach
f110414ns13

“Fourteen hours a day in yeshiva but [a student] doesn’t learn a single word of English, math, history, science, geography, music art, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Illustration image

A high-number of Haredi women responded to the survey. Haredi women suffering from eating issues also face a particular set of challenges.

When a Reform summer camp in Mississippi invited an Orthodox summer camp for a Fourth of July celebration, the get-together became national Jewish news. The onslaught of publicity caught both camps off-guard. One camp director explained that in the deep South, Jewish camps offers a place where Jewish campers “get to be in the majority instead of the minority.”

If there’s any story inside the Jewish community that closely parallels the sexual abuse cover-up inside the Catholic Church, it’s the story of Avrohom Mondrowitz.

An Ultra-Orthodox man reading the Talmud on the subway from Underground NY Public Library. The photo blog is a project of acclaimed street photographer, Ourit Ben-Haim. In an interview, Ben-Haim said that when she takes a photograph of someone reading she sees “people who are contemplating description of new possibilities. In this way, every book […]

Jews are the least of Elmo’s problems. Four days after a man dressed in an Elmo suit was forcibly ejected from Central Park for spewing anti-Semitic propaganda, an article revealed his frightening past. “I hate those [women],” he told a news reporter in 1999.

It looks like someone went up to Charles Barron and slapped him. The former member of the City Council and the Black Panther party was handily defeated by Hakeem Jeffries for the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District. The new district is mainly African-American, with a significant percentage of Russian Jews and Hispanics. Jeffries won in a landslide with more than half the precincts reporting, taking 75 percent of the vote.

Andy Statman says the time of Klezmer has passed. Having just received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in June for his work in bluegrass and Klezmer music, Statman admits Klezmer used to be his substitute for Jewish observance. Now that he is an Orthodox Jew, he no longer feels the need to play the music.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/andy-statman-klezmer-is-finished/2012/06/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: