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A Musical Melange in Brooklyn

Ellen Levitt

Posted on December 17, 2021 16:17

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The Andy Statman Trio is known for playing klezmer and bluegrass...and more.

Few things are more enjoyable for me than to see live musical performances. I've written about rock 'n roll concerts and other musical performances here, and finally, I got to see the Andy Statman Trio in person. The show was held in the main sanctuary of the Flatbush Jewish Center in Brooklyn, and a group of masked and vaxxed adults and teens attended.


I mention "finally" because my father saw the group perform more than ten years ago in a NYC park. Dad raved about them, especially their klezmer music tunes. In addition, in 2019, I had the honor of inducting Mr. Statman into the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in the Brooklyn Historical Society.

What is klezmer music? It's mostly associated with Eastern and Central European Jews and typically includes fast-paced dance numbers and slower, more plaintive pieces. Typically, a klezmer band includes stringed instruments and flute or clarinet, and often drums. 

Klezmer was niche into the 1950s but has experienced renewed interest and has been mixed with jazz, rock, and other genres of music. Statman's Trio includes him on clarinet and mandolin, Jim Whitney on standup bass, and Larry Eagle on drums and percussion; thus, it's not the typical klezmer outfit.


But they also play bluegrass and jazz-infused version of klezmer and bluegrass. It's music full of heart and can be at turns rousing and reflective.
When I heard that they'd play in a synagogue, which has very good acoustics, I knew I should attend and brought along a friend (we've known each other since fourth grade!). Before the show began, I spoke with Mr. Statman, and he recalled the Hall of Fame ceremony from 2019.

The Trio played for nearly 90 minutes, and the first half was devoted to klezmer, jazz, and related music. During the first set, Statman played clarinet. The second set was devoted mostly to bluegrass, blues, and hybrid music, and he played mandolin. Although I was more familiar with his clarinet-based music, I really enjoyed the mandolin numbers.
Pairing clarinet and mandolin may seem peculiar at first; one is a woodwind, the other a stringed instrument. But they are both higher-pitched instruments, with similar "voices." They are quite different to play, and the pairing of klezmer and bluegrass may seem quite odd to many people as well. It's a challenge to be adept at both, but Statman shows that it's possible.Too often musicians are pigeonholed in their roles. For example, how could a heavy metal guitarist also play classical music? Or a funk musician play hard rock? But it happens, more than one might think
For example: Ice-T is known mostly for rapping, but he's also played with his metal band Body Count. Bassist and singer Thundercat first became known for playing with the thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, but he also plays R&B. The late Mike Nesmith played pop-rock with the Monkees and country-rock elsewhere.

Check out the Trio here.

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on December 17, 2021 16:17

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Source: Deseret News
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