For more information:
An Informal Mickey Katz Discography
Mickey Katz: Haimishe Vebpage
Other Mickey Katz music on these pages:
Don Byron / plays the music of Mickey Katz
Mickey Katz plays music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, & Brisses
World Pacific/Capitol Records, 1994 (rerelease)
Hollywood and Vine Streets
So, we all know that Mickey Katz was a borsht belt comedian and that he was Joel Grey's father. A blessing on their heads. For years a "best of Mickey Katz" on Banner or some other sorry label has been circulating. Great stuff if you know Yiddish and don't mind the shmaltz and chauvinism of that time and place. Not what I'd call "compelling" for the general audience.
So, the first thing you know, former Klezmer Conservatory Band clarinetist Don Byron starts playing Mickey's klezmer stuff. Here's a black guy playing out-of-print stuff from this allegedly dated white Jewish guy. Who could figure out what was going on? And maybe it was Byron's inspired playing, but last year Capitol rereleases a collection of Katz' klezmer material: The complete text of Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and Brisses plus a bunch of bonus tracks. There are still the Spike Jones flourishes (Katz got his start playing with Spike Jones, after all), and the occasional funny lyrics. But there is a lot of really neat music, too. I mean, who is going to complain about a "Keneh" hora, or the lovely step calling at the "Litvak Square Dance?" (There are also moments when I think back to a lecture the wonderful Martin Schwartz gave a few years ago about how much of early cartoon music was derived from klezmer. Katz' music comes later, historically, than the music to which Professor Schwartz was discussing, but the genre is right on.)
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 7/8/95
I believe that Katz' album, Mickey Katz' Greatest Hits is still available, for those more interesting in his Yiddish parodies ("Hermendel's Koch-a-lain", Comin' 'Round the Katzkills," etc.).
For more on Katz the Klezmer musician, though, it is vital to listen to Don Byron's wonderful plays the music of Mickey Katz, Elektra Nonesuch 79313-2, 1993 (Among other gems, Byron has recorded Katz' "Home Afen Range").
From the project Katzultant, Steve Lederman, email@example.com
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998
Subject: Katz "Simcha Time"
First, may I commend you on the Klezmer pages you maintain; wonderful!
Everyone in the Klezmer community (Kommunity?) should say a benediction
for you over the candles. (Kandles? Harry Kandel??)
Anyways, your review of mine and Will Friedwald's Katz CD "Simcha Time"
was pointed out to me by a friend, and I just wanted to set the story
I've been collecting and researching Katz since I was about two years
old. That was when one of my Bubbies gave me "Katz Pyjamas" and "Katz
Puts On The Dog".
I had been trying for many years to interest a record company in putting
out an "official" reissue of Katz material, without much success. Enter
Will Friedwald, whom I met through Mrs. Raymond Scott. Will is also a
great Katz fan, and with his background in record reissues, he was able
to make the proper inroads at Capitol/Blue Note. We originally pitched
two Katz CDs to the powers that be ... one of his more comedic Yiddish
parodies, the other, of his "straight" Klezmer material. Capitol wanted
to see how the Klezmer CD did before considering the comedic one....
Will and I began the arduous listening process of items in the Capitol
archives (which resulted in the unreleased tracks you hear on the CD.)
Just to clear up some points made in your review:
- Katz did not get his start playing with Spike Jones. Jones was only a
part of his career, as one may read in "Papa, Play For Me". The only
Katz numbers that have any "Spike Jones flourishes" in them at all are
"Tiger Rag" and "Hole In The Old Iron Curtain" which are not on the CD.
To be fair, however, Katz's first RCA contract did come as a result of
Walt Heebner hearing him do some parodies for his friends in the Jones
band at a City Slickers RCA recording session.
- The compilation and release of "Simcha Time" had absolutely nothing
to do whatsoever with Don Byron's project. While Don was in Klezmer
Conservatory Band, they introduced him to Katz, via some of the numbers
they played. Any clarinetist would be intrigued by Katz's wonderful
technique and ideas! I imagine Don wanted to do his project for quite
some time. I think his CD is musically wonderful, however, the vocals
lack Katz's charisma, and therefore is not something I'd recommend to
someone not familiar with Katz's records. I think people should discover
Katz's originals first, and then enjoy Byron's interpretations!
... I have in my possession the recording logs from the Katz recording
sessions, and if you'd like to link it to your Klezmer pages, I'd be
happy to create a site that would include detailed information regarding
Katz. There should be more Katz pages on the web! [Steve's webpage for Mickey Katz is: Mickey Katz: Haimishe Vebpage. ari]
Steven Lederman, firstname.lastname@example.org
& Klezmer bass saxophonist.
Personnel on "Simcha Time":
Mickey Katz clarinet, leader, vocal
varied personnel per recording date
- Simcha time (unknown) 2:13
- Mazeltov Dances (Farber-Katz) 2:57
- Grandma's Draidel (Katz-Farber) 2:36
- Keneh Hora (Farber-Katz) 2:04
- Mendel's Song (Katz-Klein) 3:07
- Litvak Square Dance (Katz) 2:24
- Frailach Jamboree (Katz) 2:47
- Mamaliege Dance (Farber-Katz) 2:09
- Berele's Sherele (Gill-Farber) 1:52
- Trombonik Tanz (Farber-Katz) 2:35
- The Family Danced (Mickey's Frailachs) (Katz-Farber) 2:19
- Bar Mitzvah Special (Singer-Farber) 2:48
- The Wedding Dance (Katz) 2:32
- The Wedding Samba (Ellstein-Small-Liebowitz) 2:38
- Can Can Kazotski (unknown) 1:54
- Bublitchki (unknown) 3:45
- Fountainbleu Fralich (unknown) 2:00
- Yiddish Square Dance (Katz) 2:35
- Mickey's Mishegoss (Katz) 2:56
- Sunrise, Sunset (Harnick-Bock) 1:48
- Yiddish Folk Melody (traditional) 0:56