Andy Statman, Frum Virtuoso Clarinetist, Receives Heritage Award


andy-statmanAndy Statman, a frum virtuoso clarinetist and mandolin player from Brooklyn, was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship on Monday for his contributions to bluegrass and klezmer music, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The eight fellows announced this year included Leonardo (Flaco) Jimenez, the famed accordion player from San Antonio, Mike Auldridge, a dobro player from Silver Spring, Md., and the Paschall Brothers, a gospel quartet from Chesapeake, Va.

Mr. Statman, 62, a musical prodigy who grew up in Queens, has long been a fixture on the New York City folk scene, having made a dozen LPs that explore a range of genres: bluegrass, klezmer, pop and jazz. He came to prominence as a bluegrass mandolin player in the early 1970s as part of Country Cooking and later played with David Bromberg’s band and the experimental group Breakfast Special.

During the same years, he was also playing saxophone in jazz, funk and blues bands. In the mid-1970s, he switched to clarinet and began exploring the folk music of the Middle East and the Balkans. Then in 1975, he sought out the great klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras and became his disciple, eventually evolving into a driving force behind the revival of that traditional Jewish genre.

Since 1990, Mr. Statman, an Orthodox Jew, has also made several records of Jewish music from Eastern Europe. He has appeared on more than 100 recordings, working with the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Ricky Skaggs and Bela Fleck, among others.

“Mr. Statman has learned clarinet traditions from the Middle East, the Balkans and Eastern Europe, all of which made their way into klezmer music,” the critic Jon Pareles wrote in 1990. “He can use a bright, laughing tone or an opaque one, and he knows all the sliding notes, trills and quick turns that klezmer shares with cantorial singing. Unlike jazz musicians, he rarely sets out to invent new melodies over a set of chord changes. Instead, his improvisations cling to the original melody, adding ornaments or making a simple tune peal with tenderness or mournful poignancy.”

Every year, the endowment agency bestows the fellowships, which carry a $25,000 award, on masters of folk and traditional art forms, including some obscure crafts.

{Noam Newscenter with reporting by NY Times}


  1. Andy is a role model of middos tovos and anivus.I have the zchus of knowing him for many years.May he be gebenched with gezunt,nachas,and simcha always!