Andy Biskin is a clarinetist, composer, and filmmaker recognized for his omnivorous musical imagination and 20/20 vision for irony. Taking inspiration equally from Raymond Scott, Charles Ives, Thelonious Monk, and Igor Stravinsky, Biskin leads several ensembles and has composed scores for film, dance, and theater.
Biskin has toured nationally and performed at many New York venues including Joe’s Pub, Symphony Space, the Whitney Museum, The Knitting Factory, the JVC Jazz Festival, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
Born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised by musician parents, Biskin’s early musical universe included symphony concerts, marching bands, Dixieland jazz, conjunto (Mexican folk) music, and German polkas. In high school he led a polka and waltz band, and the sound of clarinets blending with trumpet and trombone have influenced his music ever since.
He studied music and anthropology at Yale University and worked as an assistant to the seminal folklorist Alan Lomax. He later began working as a video editor and director, producing documentaries and music-inspired videos.
A chance meeting with composer Gunther Schuller on a New York elevator led to Schuller producing his debut album, “Dogmental.” The CD received widespread acclaim. Ben Ratliff named it Album of the Week in The New York Times, writing “it’s hard to find gentle humor in jazz, but the clarinetist Andy Biskin has perfect radar for it.”
The New Yorker described it: “Andy Biskin’s effervescent quintet slams neo-Dixieland, Jimmy Giuffre-esque chamber jazz, and Raymond Scott-inspired zaniness together and still finds plenty of room for inspired improvisation and offbeat composition.” The Boston Phoenix wrote “Imagine Weill oom-pah and the Stravinsky of l’Histoire du Soldat crashing into the Armstrong Hot Five on the parade ground or in the saloon. Rhythms march this way and that, fox-trot into a chair, climb the walls. All eminently swinging and unfailingly tuneful.” The album was reviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and Gross later interviewed Biskin about his music on the program.
His subsequent CD releases include “Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster,” which made several best-of-the-year lists and received a four-star review in Downbeat. His chamber jazz recording called “Trio Tragico,” features Drew Gress (bass) and Dave Ballou (trumpet). “Act Necessary”, featuring his quartet Ibid: Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Brian Drye (trombone), and Jeff Davis (drums).
Andy’s most recent recording is “Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection” featuring his group 16 Tons with John Carlson, Dave Smith, Kenny Warren (trumpets) and Rob Garcia (drums).
For the past several years, Biskin has also been performing and touring his “Goldberg’s Variations” project, a suite of twelve Rube Goldberg “inventions” for which Biskin created video animations and a cartoon-music soundtrack for his sextet. The piece was commissioned by and premiered at New York’s renowned Symphony Space and recently completed a sold out run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Next Wave Festival.
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