• Andy Statman Rides the Monroe Bus

    Andy Statman Rides the Monroe Bus

    Andy Statman had a dream. Bill Monroe was in it. That should come as no surprise. Just as klezmer master Dave Tarras is in every note Statman blows on the clarinet, Monroe is in every trill he picks on his Kimble F5.

    As a musician, Statman believes in a strong basis, and he has studied Monroe, transcribed his licks and codified his playing style. In a word, he appreciates Monroe.

    So, the fact that, in his dream, Big Mon stood strong but forlorn on the Texas blackland prairie, decrying ‘no one appreciates me,' struck Statman as strange. His simple reply was, ‘I appreciate you, Bill.' The next morning, in a taxi, practicing a new, as-yet-untitled tune on the way to a studio session not far from his Brooklyn home, Statman looked up to see a Greyhound heading north. The rollsign signaled a Hudson Valley town 60 miles upriver—Monroe.

    Statman's new Shefa records disc, Monroe Bus, is titled after the dream and its aftermath.

    Michael EckAbout the author: Roots scholar and multi-instrumentalist Michael Eck is a respected songwriter; a nationally exhibited painter; and an award-winning cultural critic and freelance writer. He is also a member of Ramblin Jug Stompers, Lost Radio Rounders, Berkshire Ramblers and Good Things.

    "I'd been wanting to do a record of Bill Monroe tunes," he says, "improvising on them and doing my own versions of a lot of his classic instrumentals. But as I began going through his material, I found myself writing my own stuff, inspired by some of the feeling of his tunes, taking melodic ideas that he had and reworking them to suit what I do. Some are pretty far extended from Bill Monroe, but so much of my playing and my aesthetic on the mandolin really has to do with him. It's rooted in that, even though it goes other places that may not seemingly be connected."

    Statman is accompanied on the album by the anchors of his longstanding trio, bassist Jim Whitney and drummer Larry Eagle, but is also joined by keyboardist Glenn Patscha, guitarist Michael Daves and ace fiddler Michael Cleveland (who played on 2013's Superstring Theory). Special guests include cornetist Mark Berney, and Jeffrey Werbock on Azerbaijani kamanche and Turkish davul.

    Producer Edward Haber introduced Statman to Patscha, who is something like a secret weapon on the recording.

    "Glen is just a master at what he does," Statman raves. "He's a great improviser but he understands and plays a number of different roots styles, and I could guide him, and tell him exactly what I was looking for, too. The keyboard was what was needed for these particular tunes, to bring out what was in them."

    Track Titles

    • Monroe Bus
    • Reminiscence
    • Ice Cream on the Moon
    • Ain't No Place for a Girl Like You
    • Reflections
    • Old East River Road
    • Brooklyn Hop
    • Lakewood Waltz
    • Statman Romp
    • Mockingbird
    • Brorby's Blues
    • Raw Ride
    • Burger and Fries

    While Monroe Bus does bow to the great forebear, it also takes free flight when it wants.

    "Whether it's something from Jesse McReynolds, or something from Ornette Coleman or something from Little Walter, I just play." Statman says. "I'm into expression and ideas and feelings. I just play. It kind of flows and I'm not really thinking about it. I just play.

    "I guess over the course of the years, when you write your own tunes, it furthers your musical language. So, I've developed my own vocabulary based on all the great teachers I've had and all the music that I've transcribed.

    "I wrote ‘Lakewood Waltz,' on the swing in my kids' backyard," Statman says, explaining the genesis of a few selections." It's a rogue type of waltz, which goes a little bit somewhere else, but is still Monroe-sounding.

    The title tune, the one from the cab, was inspired by "Brown County Breakdown," "but it has very little to do with it melodically, so to speak. It's inspired by the feel.

    "The first part of ‘Statman Romp,' is loosely based on some ideas from ‘Panhandle Country' and its kickoff sort of riffs off Monroe's for ‘Roanoke,' but the melody does its own thing. It goes into a relative minor, and eventually, with the cornet and the clarinet trills and the piano, it winds up sounding like a Romanian state orchestra from the 1950s."

    Statman is not exactly a road dog these days, but he will support the release with live dates. The best opportunity to see him with Whitney and Eagle is at a seasonal residency at Charles Street Synagogue in the West Village. But the trio will launch Monroe Bus at slightly tonier digs, with an appearance in Carnegie Hall's Migrations: The Making of America Festival, Thursday, March 14 at Zankel Hall.

    Additional Information

    Comments 30 Comments
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Normally we run interviews at least a week apart but since Andy's album is being released today--or is it tomorrow--we decided the time was right to share this today. We'll feature it more prominently next week after Mandolin Mondays runs its 24 hours. Check out the sound clip. Wild stuff! Love it.
    1. JEStanek's Avatar
      JEStanek -
      The sample track is a hoot. Thanks for posting this. It'll be in my cart directly!
    1. AlanN's Avatar
      AlanN -
      Wow, sounds terrific.

      And Raw Ride? Indeed!
    1. Glassweb's Avatar
      Glassweb -
      Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
      Wow, sounds terrific.

      And Raw Ride? Indeed!
      I have heard the entire album and I think it's right up there with his debut album "Flatbush Waltz". If some of you newbies have been thinking of boarding "The Statman Bus" now would be a great time to climb aboard and start exploring his decades of mandolin (and music genre) trailblazing. A true musical genius...
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Just added a link to a purchase point on amazon for those interested. This is still red hot off the press which is why we're just getting to those links.
    1. Miltown's Avatar
      Miltown -
      New Andy Statman record? Best news ever!!

      Tomorrow is going to be an awesome new-release day; I think the new Tim O'Brien record is out, too. (I'll be buying both.)
    1. Miltown's Avatar
      Miltown -
      I just pre-ordered the record, so I'll find out soon enough, but are there any vocal tunes? I'm imagining Michael Daves maybe singing a song or two, while also handling guitar duties (much like Tim O'Brien did on "Superstring Theory"), and, well, that would be awesome.

      Of course, if there is no singing, I'm not going to be disappointed. It's a new Andy Statman record!

      And since you mentioned this new one is as good as his debut, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that, imo, every single one of his releases is of the highest quality. In particular, I think "Old Brooklyn" is an under-appreciated masterpiece. That record should have won some awards.
    1. NickR's Avatar
      NickR -
      I must have first heard him on that Danny O'Keefe track Steppin' Out Tonight . I spent ages trying to replicate his solo. That would have been 1975 and I'm still choking in his dust- or diesel smoke now with this bus!
    1. BradKlein's Avatar
      BradKlein -
      The boys are warming up on stage at Carnegie Hall (Zankel, to be more precise, the great space down below the Stern auditorium). Who is going to the show?

      It's sold out and unfortunately, I'm not going to make this one. :-(

      Attachment 175405
    1. Andy Hatfield's Avatar
      Andy Hatfield -
      Woah! Such a cool song.
    1. Trey Young's Avatar
      Trey Young -
      Just gave this album a listen (the first of what I’m sure will be many!) and loved it!!! Andy is such a creative musician and is incredibly inspiring!
    1. christyjmoore's Avatar
      christyjmoore -
      Purchased hard copy on Amazon this morning and listened twice so far on Spotify. Great stuff in typical Andy fashion, naturally melding multiple musical universes with virtuosity, imagination, depth, and humor. The mastery of tremolo alone is worth the price of admission.
    1. Aaron Woods's Avatar
      Aaron Woods -
      Very cool. I love how Andy and emulate a style and still solo with the Statman "wait, Whaaat?" moments. Look forward to hearing the whole album.
    1. TimB989's Avatar
      TimB989 -
      I’m listening to this at work right now and the second song I heard on Spotify - Reflections - kinda blew my mind when it flipped into a jazz romp. Excellent!
    1. TimB989's Avatar
      TimB989 -
      Yup I’m going to have to go through this guys full discography. This is great!
    1. Old Growth's Avatar
      Old Growth -
      lol...all time Master. Can we have a new Tim Ware album next plz?
    1. giannisgrass's Avatar
      giannisgrass -
      Just order East Flatbush Blues ! Never had anything by Andy & i am gonna start with this one first!
    1. Don Grieser's Avatar
      Don Grieser -
      Andy's a genius.
    1. Paul Statman's Avatar
      Paul Statman -
      Brilliant! Any release from Andy is good news, and judging by the 'Monroe Bus' track, this one also promises to deliver plenty of Andyness. Congratulations on the new album - it's a winner!
    1. Chris Daniels's Avatar
      Chris Daniels -
      Andy's always spectacular and I would love to hear this but the album's only been out for 10 days and Amazon is stating a new order for the CD will be shipped in 1 to 3 months and no auto-rip. Say what now?