Cellist Fred Katz is best remembered as a sideman with the Chico Hamilton Quintet, Paul Horn, and Pete Rugolo, though on this famous, long unavailable record of his own, he serves as conductor and arranger rather than player. Folk Songs for Far Out Folk consists of his tantalizing, imaginative adaptations of African, Hebrew, and American folk tunes. The musical cast varies with each group of selections. The three African songs, highlighted by the explosive "Mate'ka," include trumpeters Pete Candoli, Don Fagerquist, and Irving Goodman, with a six-man percussion section that features Larry Bunker and Nat King Cole sideman Jack Costanzo. Four American songs include treatment of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" that alternates between brooding and upbeat cool, with vibraphonist Gene Estes, pianist Johnny Williams, and guitarist Billy Bean lending a hand. The two Hebrew songs focus on reeds exclusively (excepting Mel Pollen's bass). The playful setting of "Ray's Nigun" showcases Justin Gordon on bass clarinet with Paul Horn and Buddy Collette providing whimsical accompaniment on flutes. This CD reissue by Reboot Stereophonic expands considerably on the original Warner Bros. LP, adding updated liner notes and photos of Katz in addition to reproducing the original notes and poetry that were part of the original package. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden