Much like Gershon Kingsley (see below), Katz has had one of the more extraordinary, if off-beat careers, in contemporary music. A vet of Army bands and Hollywood orchestras, plus sessions with Lena Horne and Carmen McRae, Katz made his biggest mark by bringing the cello into the forefront of the jazz repetoire. He did it best as a member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet, an ever experimental ensemble that among many great albums, dropped “Zen”, a Pacific Jazz gem of Katz compositions that went from nirvanic riffs on the title to the Latin dash of “Montuna.” Of course, he also did all the arranging for Harpo Marx’s “Harpo in Hi-Fi” LP, Ken Nordine’s classic “Word Jazz” project, the original score to The Little Shop of Horros, and yes, the ever popular Sidney Poitier Reads Plato record. He also did an A&R stint at Decca before setlling into a long-time academic gig as a must-take music prof. The most admired, if under-discussed, Katz album though is probably this one, Folk Songs for Far Out Folk, which he said was dedicated to the idea that all jazz is born from “the roots of people.” The roots he explores here are folk songs– American, Hebrew, & African. The Hebrew ones no doubt speak to Katz’s own roots as the son of a Kabbalist and Hebraic scholar. On “BAAL SHEM TOV” and “RAV’S NIGUN” Katz is joined by Paul Horn on sax and legendary LA jazzman Buddy Collette on flute. The tracks are from 1959 and sound prophetic in their way pre-Knitting Factory, avant tackle of jazz and Jewish tradition alike.
This album was rereleased by Reboot Stereophonic Records. You can buy it here.