Andy Statman Trio to perform in concert

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PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Common Fence Music will present a live performance of klezmer and bluegrass music by the Andy Statman Trio.

The concert will take place Sunday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The concert will take place at Common Fence Point Hall, 933 Anthony Road, Portsmouth.

Tickets to the show are $25 in advance, $28 at the door. Tickets and information may be obtained at CommonFenceMusic.org, or at BrownPaperTickets.org by searching Common Fence Music. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door. 

Andy Statman is a 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellow and one of his generation’s premier bluegrass mandolinists and klezmer clarinetists.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Andy comes from a long line of Jewish cantors and professional musicians. He grew up singing hasidic melodies learned at his afternoon Jewish school but also listened to show tunes, klezmer, classics, the early sounds of rock and roll and the beginnings of the folk revival.

But it wasn’t until after his brother brought home a vintage album by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs that he became performing bluegrass music. He quickly picked up the guitar and banjo, but eventually found an attraction to the mandolin.

Andy’s ravenous appetite for music led him to seek out apprenticeships with some of the greatest musicians of the time. As a teen, he studied with mandolin master David Grisman after finding him in Greenwich Village in 1965 and asking for lessons. 

During his late teens, Andy felt a pull away from bluegrass and towards the music of John Coltrane and other experimental jazz artists, and he began studying jazz saxophone with little-known virtuoso Richard Grando. But it was their discussions about spirituality and mysticism that greater influenced Andy’s future. “I realized that I was born a Jew,” says Andy, “and that it wasn’t by accident. I needed to find my own spirituality in my music and in my life my own roots, not someone else’s.” 

Andy’s search for his heritage progressed slowly, met by small, incremental changes in his everyday practice. But after finding that no one was professionally playing the instrumental music to accompany this living hasidic tradition, he took it as a personal challenge to unearth this musical tradition, what we now call klezmer. This would ultimately help him unearth his own roots.

True to character, the young apprentice, then in his early 20s, set off in search of another master. The mentor he found was no less than klezmer clarinet master David Tarras.

Andy became known as one of the key klezmer revivalists of the 70s and early 80s, one of the musicians to reclaim the music of the Old World. But To Andy, klezmer music ultimately became more than reclaiming cultural roots. It was about ecstatic devotion and recreating transcendent prayer, the Ba’al Shem Tov – which he was engaging in more regularly as he grew closer to Orthodox life. Andy says that he began to see klezmer as a living form of music mostly in the context of a religious life.

Once he fully embraced religion – today he lives as a conspicuously devout modern Orthodox hasid – he stopped performing klezmer music. By the time his roots were both deeply planted and fully exposed, Andy pulled back toward jazz and its exploration of contemplative, wandering, deep-space spirituality.

Andy’s musicianship runs almost as deep as his spirituality. What he performs today is an amalgamation of the influences of his past, a blend of bluegrass, jazz, and klezmer that is unique to his personal story. The Andy Statman Trio, which includes bassist Jim Whitney and percussionist Larry Eagle, creates a dialogue between themselves and the audience with their unconstrained meditations on hasidic music and groove-driven explorations of American-roots music. A totally unselfconscious performer, Andy Statman leaves audiences elated and at times mystified, having experienced a musical performance unlike any other.

The Common Fence Point Hall is located at 933 Anthony Road, Portsmouth, RI. Per tradition, all shows at CFM’s Portsmouth venue are BYOB & Picnic. Concert-goers are invited to bring food and beverages to enjoy the performances. Seasonal soups, homemade refreshments, and soft drinks will also be available for purchase. The hall is fully accessible. Ticket prices vary. For more information about Common Fence Music, please visit CommonFenceMusic.org, or call (401)683-5085

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