• Matt Glaser and Andy Statman - An Intimate Discussion About Music

    Andy Statman has wrapped up the recording process for a new project entitled Bluegrass Tracks, to be released on Shefa Records, produced by Ed Haber. A firm release date had not been established at the time this was published. Recorded at Nashville's Sound Emporium, the band on all the tracks has Andy Statman on mandolin; Byron Berline, fiddle (now deceased); Ron Stewart, banjo; Bryan Sutton, guitar; and Mike Bub, bass. There are several tracks with twin fiddles, with Byron and Ron both on fiddle; on one track Byron overdubs himself for twin fiddles. Ricky Skaggs joins on mandolin for two tracks. There's one song with vocals with Tim O'Brien doing the honors, and Tim adds an additional guitar on one track.

    In celebration, Matt Glaser, a personal friend of Andy for close to 50 years, agreed to lead a feature interview with Andy about all things music relating to his music. I'd venture Andy has rarely been interviewed as indepth as the completed article.

    The final interview is long enough we may publish as a 3-part feature (still under consideration). Since it was finished so much earlier, it was decided a teaser, less than 20% of the full interview, would be shared now. As this is an excerpt from late in the interivew, expect an occasional reference to earlier parts of their discussion. Sit back and relax, and be prepared to arrive inside of a conversation between two musicians of who have dedicated their lives to music.

    Scott Tichenor
    Mandolin Cafe

    Matt Glaser is a fiddler, educator, and author, who has performed with Stephane Grappelli, David Grisman, Lee Konitz, Bob Dylan, J. Geils, Leo Kottke, Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Kenny Werner, Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, the Waverly Consort, Fiddle Fever, and most recently, the Wayfaring Strangers. He is artistic director of the American Roots music program at Berklee College of Music, after serving as string department chair for twenty-eight years, and has mentored thousands of musicians.

    Andy Statman has appeared in multiple features and news releases on the Mandolin Cafe since the site launched in 1995. Praised by Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, Chicago Tribune to name a few, his regular appearances at the Charles Street Synagogue in the West Villege of New York City are legendary. On any given night, it is not unsual for a member of the Grand Ol' Opry to be seated in the audience, or musicians from late night shows based in the city, famous and not so famous working musicians passing through the city wanting their chance to witness the magic. Music fans and amateur musicians would arrive from all over the world awaiting that moment when synagogue President Herman Lowenhar (now deceased), Andy's friend and sidekick for years, would close the door and introduce the band.

    Photo credit: Ed Haber

    An excerpt of the extended interview

    Matt Glaser: Something that's been in my mind that's slightly tangential is all of these things we are talking about point to the fact that you've listened to an enormous amount of music. You've immersed yourself in the listening of music. There's this website called "Chasing the Bird" which has all the quotes that Charlie Parker ever played and the recordings. They've identified over three hundred quotes that he'd played in the midst of his solos. And what this tells you is that he listened to, and these quotes range from like Tin Pan Alley songs, turn of the century songs, light opera, classical music, contemporary classical music, Stravinsky and Ravel. And solos from other jazz musicians, Johnny Hodges, Art Tatum. Folk songs, "Sailor's Hornpipe," "Turkey in the Straw," "Frankie and Johnny." Just an enormous number of melodies that he heard and remembered and then would use in his improvisations. So to me, what's connecting what you are saying to that is this having listened to and immersed yourself in an enormous amount of music. If we just talk about the music you've mentioned in this interview so far, it ranges incredibly widely throughout style. And this is something that I think is a weakness for young students. They haven't listened to a wide range of music. They don't have it as a basis for their musical life, to listen to music of all sorts.

    Andy Statman: Yeah, I mean I was very lucky and I always had lots of music available to me.

    Matt Glaser: Do you think that's from living in New York City? Is that a New York thing?

    Andy Statman: Yeah, part of it, yeah. I studied a number of different ethnic styles as well as jazz. There were many old master ethnic musicians living in New York at the time and I was able to study with them.

    Studying many styles can create a problem for young musicians. What happens is that instead of mastering a style and understanding what creates that style...

    Matt Glaser: They'd be a dilettante.

    Andy Statman: Right, they'd be a dilettante. And they'd have chops, but they'd never understand what would make one style really click. They couldn't really go deep in that style expressively or emotionally.

    Matt Glaser: Yeah, yeah [laughing].

    Andy Statman: But, they are from the age of heavy duty online technology. So I don't even know really what they listen to or what their tastes are. I don't know. What I can say is that we were able to see the first and second generation of Bluegrass people live and really absorb that music. And that was the big bang. In many ways those guys... There are different eras where music really takes a great leap forward. One of them was right after World War II. So you had Bill Monroe happening, there was a similar thing happening in jazz with Bird and Diz, Chicago blues as well as Classical music. It was something that was happening... And then it kept going from there and then the next big time that thing really happened was in the Sixties which sort of culminated with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Dylan went electric and then you have Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Monk was on the cover of Time Magazine. So we were alive then, able to hear that stuff and absorb it. A lot of these guys who were primary movers and shakers in bluegrass, jazz, etc. are really not around any more. I don't hear a lot of... not in all musicians. But there's a general thing, there's not as much individuality as I would like to hear. There are always exceptions to this. There might be a lack of rootedness in some musicians' playing because they just haven't been exposed to it. Or it's just not really part of their language.

    Matt Glaser: But you know, how is it possible that... I mean it's hard to think of other musicians beside yourself who have, you talked about going deep into a particular thing so that one has mastered a tradition, but it's very rare to find someone who has mastered multiple traditions and it comes up against what's even possible in one human lifespan if you are also going to have a family and jobs and kids. The vicissitudes of life seem to prevent one from mastering more than one style and yet... What styles do you say that you feel like you've immersed yourself in most deeply? What are the styles that you would say "ok, I've mastered these styles"?

    Andy Statman: I mean there's always things to learn. I can always learn more in these styles I've studied. To play well in any style takes a real commitment and you can't do it all. You know, traditional bluegrass, free form improvisation, certain types of blues, I'd say Klezmer music and Hasidic music. And then I've gone pretty deep into Greek and Azerbaijani music. But I couldn't do everything so I had to make a decision. I remember when I got heavily into Klezmer music I was also playing Greek and Azerbaijani music and I sort of felt that on a personal level no one was playing Klezmer music at that time that I knew of in a traditional manner. And I also felt that it was sort of my birthright so I needed to sort of keep it alive for myself. I made that decision to stop the others and devote my...

    Matt Glaser: So, the Greek music is from the island of Epirus?

    Andy Statman: It's from the coast, it would be from the western coast of Greece, it's up north right next to Albania. My clarinet teacher from Epirus went back to Greece, he was in his 70s and came back quite upset at what he heard. He said everyone sounds the same now. When he was a kid he used to go by horse and buggy to play in different towns and he wanted to hear the local musicians. He said they'd be playing a completely different style, related, but a completely different style. And they're ten miles away, it might be the same tunes, but different... He said that existed all over then, but when he came back he said there was this one homogenous style.

    Matt Glaser: I've heard Martin Hayes say to me exactly what you are saying. He said his father talked about how in Ireland it used to be like if you went over a hill there was a completely different although related musical style before all the styles had become homogenized. Their regions preserved their regional identity musically before technology identified everything as the same. And then the Azerbaijani stuff is from a region that would be in the Soviet Union or in Iran, that area?

    Andy Statman: Well, yeah. Azerbaijan is next to Persia. So there is a lot of similarities, but a different emotional feel between the Persian and Azerbaijani music. The Azerbaijanis speak more of a Turkic language rather than Farsi. But I was very into Uzbek music, particularly the dutar music. All this stuff influenced the way I play and influences tunes that I write. A lot of things I do with fifths and things like that really comes out of the Uzbek music and the feelings that that engenders in people.

    Matt Glaser: Is that something that... I know there's large communities of central Asians in Queens. Is this music preserved in Queens at all? Could you go hear it? Or is it all gone?

    Andy Statman: Yeah you can, it's in Queens and also in Brooklyn as well. When I was listening to this music back in the 70s it was just records smuggled out of the Soviet Union back then.

    Additional Information

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Perry's Avatar
      Perry -
      A new Andy Statman record is always an exciting thing and the lineup here looks like a lot of fun. Look forward to the rest of the article too. Thanks.
    1. BillWilliams's Avatar
      BillWilliams -
      Excellent teaser!
    1. Don Grieser's Avatar
      Don Grieser -
      Hope to read more of this interview in the near future and really looking forward to hearing this recording.
    1. jnikora's Avatar
      jnikora -
      Great interview - I, too, would love to read more.

      In 2007 or 2008, Andy came to our house in Madison to do a workshop. It was attended by folks from across the Midwest including Don Julin, who drove through a white-out blizzard from Traverse City, MI. Beside being a great player and teacher, Andy is very supportive and warm. In the short time he was with us, I felt we had formed a friendship.

      A year or two later, we were planning a trip to NYC and I dropped Andy a line asking what nights they were playing at the Synagogue. I let him know we would be there on the following Monday night. When we arrived, we were greeted by Herman who guessed who we were and led us to the front row, stopping by a table to offer a shot of Scotch. "It's not a single malt" he said, "but there is single malt in it." He would take no money.

      As we were waiting for the show to start, Andy came on "stage" and summoned me up to thank us for coming and show me his new Kimble F5. After I returned to my seat, Herman announced that the show would start soon and that it was completely free "though we do encourage donations and we recommend $15". As I counted it out, a hand rested on my shoulder and Herman's voice said, "Your money is not accepted here".

      Such great memories. We are so sorry to hear of Herman's passing and offer our condolence to Andy for the loss of a true friend. He was a true gentleman.

    1. tuhker's Avatar
      tuhker -
      Sweet, can't wait to read more. I met Andy a couple of times at the Mandolin Symposium where someone took the pic below and also on a recent visit to NYG. I'm fascinated at his deep approach to improv which sometimes stretches a fiddle tune to 10+ minutes and his willingness/need to explore tunes where they're likely never been before even at the risk of unpredictable results. Btw I like how this interview is presented as a conversation. Someone did a lot of transcribing

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    1. Dick Wade's Avatar
      Dick Wade -
      what a tease. please print it all
    1. Aaron Woods's Avatar
      Aaron Woods -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dick Wade View Post
      what a tease. please print it all
      I disagree - this is how long form interviews should be posted in our new ultra-distracted abbreviated world.

      What do I care about Greek music?
      Nothing until this article triggered me to consider it has localized depth far beyond what we know from the Monty Python ‘cheese shop’ sketch.

      I was fortunate to see Andy (and Herman) many years ago. Andy is a remarkable musician in that he draws needs from many different genres.

      Yet he has also a great human. I felt totally awkward as my wife had a deep conversation with him about kids, Brooklyn and a Judaism.

      Traditions are languages and we should appreciate documentarians like Lomax that snap a picture of a location and tune that is lost to time, but available for study and learning.

      Running out for some baklava…