Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Found!!! Fred Katz: The Zen of Fred

To get to Fred Katz, you must find your way through the manicured suburban back-streets of Fullerton, then cross a Zen garden (complete with wooden bridge over a sea of pebbles), then walk over a SHALOM doormat. Once you find him, it will be hard to stay away. We've spent many an afternoon in Katz's living room-- full of his old LPs, family photos, and collection of books on magic and Kabbalah-- and his converted studio garage, a magical space itself where Katz's cello takes center stage alongside reel-to-reel decks and piles of sheet music.

We've posted the basics on Katz's remarkable career before but suffice it to say there is nobody quite like him: the first cellist in jazz, an emeritus professor of anthropology, a composer for Roger Corman films, and an arranger for Lena Horne, Carmen McRae, Sidney Poitier, Ken Nordine, and Harpo Marx. That's not to mention his years on cello pioneering West Coast jazz with the Chico Hamilton Quintet and his numerous solo albums, from Soul-O-Cello to Fred Katz and His Jammers (where he played cello on Malibu Beach in his pajamas)...
...to Folk Songs For Far Out Folk, his landmark 1959 jazz orchestration of American, Hebrew, and African folk songs. We re-issued Folk Songs last year (more on that here) and are happy to say that it helped re-introduce Katz's incredible story to new audiences.

Jon Kalish's visit to Katz's home for NPR was one of our favorites and you can listen here.

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Only a musician as talented and imaginative as Chico Hamilton would have created the original Chico Hamilton Quintet. Drums (Chico), guitar (Jim Hall), bass (originally Carson Smith), reeds (Buddy Collette) and cello (?) by Fred Katz. It was a wonderful chamber jazz group playing melodic yet swinging jazz.

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