Plays the Music of Mickey Katz

Don Byron

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Plays the Music of Mickey Katz Review

by Bob Tarte

No one recognized the manic possibilities of klezmer more than clarinetist Mickey Katz, whose 1945-1947 tenure with Spike Jones spawned a comedy band that launched such funny travesties as the Yiddish cowpoke ditty "Haim Afen Range" or the Jewish-Hawaiian "Mechaye War Chant." Katz used humor to expand the musical boundaries of klezmer, thrusting it into the laps of World War II mainstream America at a time when Yiddish was identified as a victim's language and most Jewish music looked backward in time because the post-Holocaust present was intolerable. Playing Katz's songs demands prodigious chops, hence the attraction of Katz to molecule-splitting clarinetist Don Byron, who demonstrates nerve presenting Katz the monologist as the equal of Katz the composer. In sum, convoluted, kaleidoscopic silliness topped with Byron's usual dazzling self.

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