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Artist Profiles

Fred Katz

By Published: August 12, 2007
Moving on to the African set, its commonality with jazz is obvious but what is not so clear is its harmony with the Hebraic material. Katz goes back to the roots as part of an explanation. "I did a Friday night Shabbat service with a cantor, Cantor Michaelson—we did a jazz service called Jazz Hebraica—the whole Torah is a melody. What they have on the letters are these little dots and markings, cantillation, and I have studied them. So that tradition of music and improvisation is very much a part of the Hebraic tradition... I played some rather avant-garde stuff on the piano and the cantor would sing around it and it was rather exciting... I opened up the ceremony with a guy on a completely empty stage with a bongo. And they said why did you do it? I said have you forgotten where we come from? Have you forgotten Egypt is in Africa? We have African roots... they think we come from Brooklyn."

With today's worldwide dogmatic and nationalistic divisiveness, Katz' pluralistic view on spirituality is refreshing and timely. "Beyond religion there is God. The great Gregory, from whom you got the Gregorian chant said to define God is impossible. I have always believed that. Behind every dogma, there is that one unexplainable moment that creates every other unexplainable moment and the idea is not to understand it but to be moved by that mystery. For me it is the Hebraic moment, for other people it is the Christian moment, for others it is the Islamic moment. That is why that I think when Jesus said I have a house of many mansions, what does he mean? Many different kinds of ways of looking. At this moment that is what I believe. Maybe when I hang up I'll change my mind."

At the age of 88, Fred Katz carries on today as a consummate Renaissance man. Philosopher, anthropologist, composer and musician, he continues to produce new works, expressing his creativity through innovation and playing his beloved cello and piano. In the process, he shares those wonderful unexplainable moments with all who take the time to listen.

Recommended Listening:

Chico Hamilton—The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings (Pacific Jazz-Mosaic, 1954-59)

Ken Nordine—Word Jazz/Son of Word Jazz (Dot-Rhino/London, 1957)

Fred Katz—Soul-o-cello (Decca, 1957)

Fred Katz—Folk Songs for Far Out Folk (Warner Bros.-Reboot Stereophonic, 1958)

Fred Katz—4-5-6 Trio (Decca, 1958)

Fred Katz—And His Jammers (Decca, 1958)

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