• 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 27 Comments
    1. BradKlein's Avatar
      BradKlein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Chris Daniels View Post
      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?
      If you're looking for digital download, the CD is on this site, QOBUZ available in CD or Hi-Res. The link came from the CD's producer and is a legit distributer.
    1. Perry's Avatar
      Perry -
      It is on Spotify...sounds great
    1. ehaber's Avatar
      ehaber -
      Quote Originally Posted by Chris Daniels View Post
      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?
      Amazon now has the cd of Monroe Bus in stock and indicates so on the order page.
    1. BradKlein's Avatar
      BradKlein -
      Quote Originally Posted by ehaber View Post
      Amazon now has the cd of Monroe Bus in stock and indicates so on the order page.
      Ed Haber has worked closely with Andy Statman for years and produced many of his CDs. He's a skilled audio engineer whose work can be heard on New York City's NPR Station, WNYC - where he serves as Senior Concert Engineer. Welcome to the Cafe, Ed!
    1. giannisgrass's Avatar
      giannisgrass -
      Great album like East Flatbush Blues! Check out his Cherrokee Shuffle version on YouTube... Wow!!!
    1. Al Bergstein's Avatar
      Al Bergstein -
      Superb like everything Statman does. Thanks for the posting.
    1. Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
      Sherry Cadenhead -
      Thanks to a MC member, last May I saw Andy on a trip to New York City. His group plays regularly at a synagogue (in Brooklyn, I believe). There's no charge, but a donation (of $20, I believe) is requested. The venue is intimate, seating only 20 people or so. It was wonderful and he handed me his mandolin to play afterward.